There have been fresh attempts to communicate with the stranded Russian probe – Phobos-Grunt. It was destined for Mars when launched a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately got stuck in Earths Orbit. Noone is quite sure what went wrong but the scientists and engineers on the project are hoping it can be fixed and the mission can continue.
The problem is that to fix it they first need to be able to communicate with the probe which is proving to be quite tricky. There has been some contact with it, this was achieved initially by using Europe’s ESA 15 metre dish which is sited in Perth. However even this took nearly a fortnight and highlights the difficulties with communication over these sort of distances. They had to modify the antenna in order to make the beam wider.
There was some response and Phobos-Grunt has turned on it’s transmitter, but it is not responding to commands and communication is very intermitent. All the information has been passed back to the Russian scientists working on the project who hopefully will be able to use this data to get the probe up and running again.
There’s lots more information on this and other developments in exploration on the BBC Space Site – any one interested in Astronomy would be wise to add it to their bookmarks. If you want to watch the BBC shows on astronomy (and anything else) – you might find this page useful if you live outside the UK – http://www.anonymous-proxies.org/2009/02/using-iplayer-abroad-viewing-bbc-via.html. It shows you how to access the BBC Iplayer functionality from anywhere outside the United Kingdom using a UK proxy server set up.
Keep an eye out for the latest programmes, there’s quite a lot of science and space shows recently quite often fronted by the excellent Dr Brian Cox.