Incoming space junk: Failed Russian Mars probe expected to crash this weekend
What went up is going to come down — and soon.
A failed Russian Mars probe stranded above the Earth since November will plunge to its doom this weekend, likely on Sunday.
Experts expect the 11 tons of fuel on board to explode high in the atmosphere as friction eats through the craft’s aluminum tanks.
But predicting when and where space objects will fall is tricky. Solar flares and other “space weather” expand and contract the Earth’s atmosphere, creating more and less drag on falling objects.
That means the spacecraft, called Phobos-Grunt, could plummet back to Earth over North America, South America, Europe, Asia, or even Australia.
“It’s not possible to say where the thing is going to fall down,” said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the orbital debris office at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, in an interview Friday.
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, expects 500 pounds of the nearly 15-ton craft to survive re-entry, with the rest incinerating during the screaming re-entry. The agency’s latest prediction shows it crashing into the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of South America.