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MOSCOW, January 14 (Itar-Tass) —— Piece of the Fobos-Grunt mission will fall in the Pacific off Chile on January 15, according to the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
The debris may fall within the interval of January 15-16, but the likelihood will be the highest at 21:51 Moscow time. The pieces may fall in an area stretching from 51.4 degrees latitude north to 51.4 degrees latitude south.
Fobos-Grunt, which means “Phobos-Soil”, is a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Launched on November 9, 2011 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, aboard a Zenit-2SB carrier rocket, it is in a low Earth orbit awaiting resolution of technical problems that have prevented it from continuing its mission.
Funded by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and developed by the Lavochkin Association and the Russian Space Research Institute, Fobos-Grunt is the first Russian-led interplanetary mission since the abortive Mars 96. The spacecraft was also carrying the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the tiny Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment funded by the Planetary Society.
The spacecraft was scheduled to reach Mars' orbit in September 2012 and land on Phobos in February 2013. The return vehicle, carrying up to 200 grams of soil from Phobos, was expected back on Earth in August 2014.
If it had succeeded in achieving these aims, Fobos-Grunt would have become the first spacecraft to return a macroscopic extraterrestrial sample from a planetary body since Luna 24 in 1976, and the first successful Russian interplanetary mission since 1986.
Contact with the mission was lost soon after the launch and it was uncontrollable since then.
The Lavochkin Association is a Russian aerospace company that develops and manufactures spacecraft such as the Fregat and Ikar rocket upper stages, satellites and interplanetary probes. It is a contractor for a number of military programmes. The company's most notable project at the moment is the Fobos-Grunt probe.