It seems a Russian probe on its way to Mars has once again lost control of itself and started an elliptical orbit around Earth. The probe, which must be fixed remotely within two weeks or be lost completely was one of the most ambitious projects the Russian space program had engaged in. Just on the heels of the international Mars 500 program, the sudden odd behavior of the probe has been blamed on dust. But this isn’t the first time a space probe suddenly lost control under mysterious circumstances while approaching Mars.
Phobos Grunt was a space probe that would follow the space probe sent out in 1989 when a massive elliptical object appeared just before the probe was seemingly destroyed. The Phobos 1 and 2 were the two probes sent by the Russian agency IKI in order to build upon the extremely slim body of knowledge about the moon. But it seems just before the probes reached the moon both malfunctioned mysteriously. While the first probe lost was blamed largely on human error, the second probe is alleged to have been destroyed by a mysterious disc shaped object which appeared in front of it just before transmission was lost.
The photographs remained classified for years before the Mars Observer probe was also lost while in orbit when it exploded. The explosion was thought to be caused by a build up in pressure of the fuel tanks, but some have expressed a concern over the consecutive string of failures since the early days of Mars exploration. And while some probes have successfully made their way to the planet, many orbital probes have been destroyed amid talk of either international or even Martian intervention.
In the vast distance between Mars and Earth there is plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong. After all, NASA scientists have to compensate for the fact that by the time their message arrives to the probe they send out it will be several minutes later. But the string of failures to explore Mars seem substantial enough to make some question whether efforts to explore Mars are being met with resistance by aliens who do not wish their planet to be intruded upon. The idea is certainly enough to fuel the theories that have been around since the early days of the Phobos 1 and 2 when a UFO was photographed immediately before the craft was destroyed.
Are we looking at an interplanetary cover up to hide something? Is it a case of simple sabotage between countries all eager to be the first to learn about the secrets held within Phobos? Or can it all be chalked up to a coincidental series of accidents and uncontrolled failures? We may learn within the next week if Russia can regain control of this latest probe and put it back on course.