This artist's concept shows fuel from Russia's failed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt burning from a ruptured fuel tank as the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere.
Credit: Michael Carroll
Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft launched Nov. 8 on a mission to snag soil samples from the Mars moon Phobos and send them back to Earth. But the probe's main engines didn't fire as planned to send it on a course for the Red Planet, and Phobos-Grunt got stuck in Earth orbit.
The 14.5-ton spacecraft has been circling lower and lower ever since, and experts predict it will come crashing back into Earth's atmosphere sometime in mid-January. SPACE.com is providing full coverage of Phobos-Grunt's re-entry, including a look at the issues surrounding orbital debris and space situational awareness.
Latest update (Jan. 15):
Russian officials now state that Phobos-Grunt crashed in the Pacific Ocean at 12:45 p.m. EST (1745 GMT) today about 777 miles (1,250 kilometers) west of Wellling Island. The report comes from an official with Russia's Defense Ministry. [Full story]
Photos: Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mission to Mars Moon
See images and photos from Russia's ill-fated mission to sample a Martian moon.
The Crash of Failed Mars Probe Phobos-Grunt (Infographic )
Learn more about Russia's failed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, which will fall to Earth in January 2012, in this SPACE.com infographic.
Video: Amateur Photographers Snap Doomed Phobos-Grunt Over France
See one of the last views of the doomed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt before its fall from space.
Video: Fire From the Sky? Phobos-Grunt Re-entry
Watch how the doomed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt will crash back to Earth in this animation by Analytical Graphics, Inc.
Infographic: Inside Russia's Mars Moon Sampling Mission
Take a look at how the Phobos-Grunt mission was supposed to work in this SPACE.com infographic.
Video: Dirt From Phobos: Russia Aims to Bring Some Back
Learn more about Russia's ambitious Phobos-Grunt mission to collect samples of the largest moon of Mars.
Wednesday, Jan. 25
Failed Mars Probe Crashed Near South America Coast, Space Junk Experts Say
Space junk experts have confirmed when and where the wayward Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt re-entered the atmosphere and crashed back to Earth.
Saturday, Jan. 21
Russian Mars Probe Crash Sets Off Confusion, Conspiracy Theories
When an ill-fated Russian Mars probe fell to Earth over the weekend, the spacecraft's untimely demise set off a flurry of conflicting media reports and conspiracy theories.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
Is the US Military Hiding Data on Dead Russian Mars Probe?
In the latest twist in what has become an increasingly mysterious saga, the U.S. military appears to have removed links from a public website for tracking data on a dead Russian Mars probe that fell to Earth and plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Jan. 15, according to media reports.
Tuesday, Jan. 17
Is the US Military Hiding Data on Dead Russian Mars Probe?
Russian space industry officials say the United States may have accidentally destroyed Russia's most expensive and ambitious space mission since the Soviet era. But the accusation doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Russia Investigates Claim That US Radar Doomed Mars Probe
Russian space officials are investigating whether interference from an American radar station may have led to the demise of a failed Mars probe that fell back to Earth on Sunday (Jan. 17), according to media reports.
Monday, Jan. 16
Where On Earth Did Russia's Dead Mars Probe Crash?
Despite reports that a failed Russian Mars probe fell to Earth Sunday (Jan. 15) and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, some confusion remains over where exactly the spacecraft crashed, according to Russian news reports.
Sunday, Jan. 15 - CRASH DAY
Failed Russian Mars Probe Crashes Into Pacific Ocean: Reports
After languishing in Earth orbit for more than two months, the 14.5-ton Phobos-Grunt spacecraft fell at around 12:45 p.m. EST (1745 GMT) Sunday, apparently slamming into the atmosphere over an empty stretch of the Pacific, Russian officials told the Ria Novosti news agency.
Doomed Russian Mars Probe Just Hours From Crashing to Earth
A botched Russian Mars probe is just hours away from a fiery doom when it plunges into Earth's atmosphere in a fatal crash. It won't fall over the United States, but may crash into the Atlantic Ocean, Russian space officials said today (Jan. 15).
Saturday, Jan. 14
Crash of Falling Russian Spacecraft Imminent, Experts Say
Russia's botched Mars probe mission Phobos-Grunt is fast-approaching a fiery death, with just one or two days remaining before it falls from space, experts and Russian space officials say.
Friday, Jan. 13
Where Will Doomed Russian Mars Probe Fall?
Nobody knows for sure when, or where, Phobos-Grunt will come crashing down.
Space Station Dodges Space Junk from Satellite Crash
A piece of debris from a 2009 satellite crash forced the maneuver.
Russian Mars Probe to Crash Soon, With World Watching
Phobos-Grunt is slated to re-enter Earth's atmosphere between Jan. 14 and Jan. 16.
In 'Space Junk 3D,' Orbital Debris Threat Crashes Onto Big Screen
The growing threat of space junk is now starring in a 3D film.
Thursday, Jan. 12
Recent Satellite Crashes Bring Space Junk Problem into Public Eye
Regular people have started paying attention to orbital debris.
Tuesday, Jan. 10
Russian Space Failures May Be Result of Foul Play, Official Says
Unnamed forces may have brought down Phobos-Grunt and other missions, hinted the head of Russia's space agency.
Friday, Jan. 6
Skywatcher Catches Video of Doomed Russian Mars Probe
A French skywatcher has recorded what is likely one of the last videos of the falling Phobos-Grunt space probe.
Thursday, Jan. 5
Doomed Russian Mars Probe May Crash to Earth on Jan. 15
The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft should re-enter our planet's atmosphere Jan. 15, officials say.
Cosmic Fail! Biggest Space Flops of 2011
The year 2011 saw its share of launch and mission failures; thankfully, none of them involved astronauts. Here's a recap of the biggest space disappointments of the year:
Friday, Dec. 30
Skywatcher Captures Image of Troubled Russian Mars Probe
The marooned Mars spacecraft is expected to fall to Earth in mid-January.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
Parts of Doomed Russian Mars Probe to Hit Earth in January
Up to 30 pieces of the 14-ton Phobos-Grunt Mars probe could reach the ground.
Friday, Dec. 16
Failed Mars Probe's Fall From Space May Help Re-Entry Predictions
Experts are predicting that Phobos-Grunt could fall to Earth in early January.
Wednesday, Dec. 14
Russian Official Calls Troubled Mars Probe 'Mission Impossible'
The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has been stranded in the wrong orbit since Nov. 8.
Friday, Dec. 9
Russian Scientist Apologizes for Failed Mars Moon Mission
A member of the Phobos-Grunt science team apologized for the collapse of the mission.
Thursday, Dec. 8
Scientist: Russia's Failed Mars' Moon Probe Worth a Second Try
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Tuesday, Dec. 6
Russia's Mars Probe Appears 'Dead in the Water'
Pieces of Phobos-Grunt have reported already fallen to Earth.
Friday, Dec. 2
Is Phobos-Grunt Dead? Troubled Russian Probe Still Unresponsive
Efforts to contact the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft have failed.
Thursday, Dec. 1
Russian President Threatens Punishment for Recent Space Blunders
Medvedev said the recent failures have harmed the country's competitiveness.
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Skywatcher Snaps Photos of Stranded Russian Mars Probe
Ralf Vandebergh spotted the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft with a 10-inch telescope.
Video: Hot-Rodded Security Cam Spies Doomed Russian Probe
See an early video of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe captured by an amped up security camera.
Attempt to Boost Orbit of Stuck Russian Probe Fails
The troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains in a low-altitude orbit above Earth.
Tuesday, Nov. 29
European Space Agency to Try Contacting Troubled Russian Probe Again
Time is running out to save the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft.
Friday, Nov. 25
Russia's Troubled Mars Probe Highlights Falling Space Debris Hazard
Satellite builders are considering measurements to reduce risk if spacecraft fall back to Earth.
Wednesday, Nov. 23
It's Alive! Russia's Phobos-Grunt Probe Phones Home
A tracking station in Australia succeeded in contacting the Russian Phobos-Grunt probe.
Tuesday, Nov. 22
Time Running Out to Save Russian Mars Moon Probe
An international effort is under way to save Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars.
Monday, Nov. 21
Why Is It So Hard to Go to Mars?
It's not easy reaching Mars. Not at all.
Monday, Nov. 14
Russia Still Trying to Contact Stranded Mars Moon Probe
Nearly a week in, engineers still haven't given up hope on Phobos-Grunt.
Cosmic Fail! Getting into Space Is Still Really, Really Hard
It is rocket science, after all.
Friday, Nov. 11
Outlook Grim for Stranded Russian Mars Moon Probe
Russia's ailing Phobos-Grunt Mars moon probe remains silent to Russian engineers' calls.
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist's View
A mission scientist shares what it's like to have a spacecraft on the edge.
Thursday, Nov. 10
Russia Races to Save Mars Moon Probe from Space Junk Fate
If Russian engineers cannot save the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, it will become another piece of space junk.
Wednesday, Nov. 9
Russian Engineers Race to Save Troubled Mars Moon Probe
The probe failed to leave Earth orbit on its way to Mars.
Failure Common Among Mars Missions (Timeline)
Here's a look at all the Mars missions to date, with those that failed in bold.
Tuesday, Nov. 8
Russian Mars Moon Probe Suffers Big Failure After Launch
Russian space officials say the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft did not fire its engines as planned.
Russia Launches Spacecraft to Grab Pieces of Mars' Moon Phobos
The Phobos-Grunt mission aims to return samples of Phobos to Earth by 2014.
Russia Launching Probe to Sample Mars' Moon Phobos Today
Russia is set to launch a robotic spacecraft to the Mars moon Phobos today, marking the nation's first attempt at an interplanetary mission in 15 years.