Roscosmos chief says sabotage could have caused Mars probe failure
The head of Russia's national space agency on Tuesday said the failure of the Mars probe mission could have been as a result of sabotage, according to an interview published in the state-sponsored Izvestiya newspaper.
"I don't want to accuse anyone, but there exist powerful means of affecting space vehicles from Earth, and we cannot exclude that this was the reason for the failure," Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said, DPA reported.
The space agency's experts did not however know the cause, he said.
The November 9 launch of the Fobos-Grunt went awry hours into the mission, with the vehicle failing to fire its interplanetary engines and refusing to respond to almost all ground commands.
"We also do not understand why there seem to have been failures in the probe's operation when it was on the far side of Earth from Russia, where we were unable to track the vehicle," Popovkin said.
The 163-million-dollar probe was designed to fly to the Mars moon Phobos to take a soil sample and return it to Earth.
A China-built satellite carried by the Russian space bus was to have remained in orbit around Mars itself to collect weather data.
The probe currently is in an elliptical and decaying orbit around Earth. Roscosmos officials have said the space vehicle weighing 13.5 tons will crash to Earth, on or around January 15.
It is likely the probe will break up into 20 - 30 pieces but the precise location they will land is impossible to predict, Popovkin said.