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Program Glitch Led to Russian Mars Probe Failure
by Staff Writers
Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Feb 06, 2012

Phobos-Grunt, Russia's most ambitious planetary mission in decades, was launched on November 9 but it was lost due to a propulsion failure and fell back to Earth on January 15.

A government commission has blamed Russian programmers for the recent failure of Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, the Kommersant daily said on Tuesday citing a space industry source.

The commission, which submitted its final report to the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Vladimir Popovkin late on Monday, concluded that the main cause of the failure was "a programming error which led to a simultaneous reboot of two working channels of an onboard computer."

Investigators have ruled out any "external or foreign influence" on the spacecraft, including the alleged emissions from a U.S. radar in the Pacific Ocean.

"The U.S. radar theory was deemed ungrounded after a series of tests showed that the electronics similar to those onboard the Phobos-Grunt had withstood the highest possible level of electromagnetic radiation," the Kommersant source said.

The report will be presented on Tuesday to Russia's new Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the probe.

Phobos-Grunt, Russia's most ambitious planetary mission in decades, was launched on November 9 but it was lost due to a propulsion failure and fell back to Earth on January 15.

Soon after the failed launch, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said a rocket motor should have started up to push the probe into higher orbit, but it failed to fire for unknown reasons.

According to NASA, Russia has failed in all 17 of its attempts to study the Red Planet close-up since 1960. The most recent failure before November last year occurred in 1996, when Russia lost its Mars-96 orbiter during launch.

Source: RIA Novosti

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