Artist’s rendition of Phobos-Grunt’s reentry, predicted for January 15, 2012 (Credits:Michale Carroll).

The Russian Mars moon probe Phobos-Grunt, which successfully launched on November 9, 2011 only to be subsequently stuck in Earth orbit, is due to reenter the atmosphere sometime this month.

According to Roscosmos’ news release from January 6, the probe has a reentry window of January 10-January 21, with the highest likelihood for January 15. The probe’s landing site has only been identified as somewhere between 51.4S and 51.4N latitudes (see infographic below). Roscosmos anticipates being able to make a more precise prediction only within one day prior to reentry.

On December 28, photographer Ralf Vandebergh captured images of the probe. According to his interpretation, the pictures indicated a change in orientation since last viewed in November. Using the ISS as a benchmark, Vandebergh the Phobos-grunt as flying partially sideways.

The Phobos-Grunt will reenter the atmosphere will full hydrazine fuel tanks and a small quantity of radioactive cobalt. Roscosmos and NASA experts have indicated that the fuel is unlikely to survive reentry.
Learn more about Russia's failed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, which will fall to Earth in January, 2012 in this infographic.

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