Ian Sample for The Guardian:
A Russian spacecraft that became stranded in orbit on the way to Mars last year is expected to fall back to Earth next week.
The 13.5 tonne Phobos-Grunt has been circling Earth since November when rocket boosters failed to ignite and send the spaceship on its journey to the Martian moon of Phobos. The spacecraft suffered a computer malfunction after launch and when repeated attempts to contact the rocket failed, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, had to abandon the mission.
Risk assessments by the Russian, German and US space agencies have focused on whether the highly toxic fuel, known as unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (DTO), could contaminate the debris site.
According to the agencies’ reports, the spacecraft’s aluminium fuel tanks are likely to rupture and leak at an altitude of about 100km and burn up, perhaps completely, on re-entry. The fuel will either ignite or be dispersed in the atmosphere.
Colin: Yeah but they “expected” it to go to Mars too.