Foul play may be responsible for the failure of Russia's Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, as well as a string of other embarrassing setbacks that plagued the country's space agency last year, the agency's chief suggested.
The 14.5-ton Phobos-Grunt spacecraft got stuck in Earth orbit shortly after its Nov. 8 launch, and Russian officials predict it will crash back into the atmosphere this Sunday (Jan. 15). Shadowy unnamed actors may have brought the probe down and caused four other Russian space failures in 2011, hinted Vladimir Popovkin, chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
"It is unclear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are travelling through what for Russia is the 'dark' side of the Earth — in areas where we do not see the craft and do not receive its telemetry readings," Popovkin told Russia's Izvestia newspaper, according to Agence-France Presse.
"I do not want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we cannot exclude," he added.
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