News, Science, Technology

Phobos-Grunt Mission To Mars Misfires

Phobos-Grunt Russian space vehicleIn the 1970s, a space mission called the Phobos-Grunt project was proposed by Russian space experts.

At the time, it represented a dream for the Russian space program. To build a vehicle that could go all the way to Mars, to collect information from one of its moons, Phobos. It would be Russia’s first deep-space mission, developed entirely in the post-Soviet era.

The project had lots of problems over the years. They include mismanagement, political issues and serious technical problems, according to Russian journalist Anatoly Zak.

However, the Russian space agency persisted, and eventually the Phobos-Grunt became a reality.

The Phobos-Grunt launched on Nov. 9.

Unfortunately, the unmanned vehicle would not make it to Mars. A technical failure caused it to remain orbiting around the Earth, unable to propel itself towards the red planet. And that is where it still is, now.

The Phobos-Grunt had a “flawless liftoff,” from Earth, according to Zak. It left Kazakhstan, near Russia, at 3:16 in the afternoon EST.

The flight was to have three stages. The first stage was the liftoff, which would put it into orbit around the Earth. That went perfectly, and Phobos-Grunt was soon circling 207 kilometres above the Earth.

However, the second and third stages never happened. They were to be automatic bursts from the Phobos-Grunt’s engines which would propel it out of Earth’s atmosphere and to Mars’s moon.

But the engines never fired, and the Phobos-Grunt is still circling the Earth.

What will happen now to the $170-million aircraft? There is still a slim chance they can get the Phobos-Grunt working again. If not, parts of the space vehicle will almost certainly fall back to Earth in the next couple of weeks. Members of the Russian space agency are working to ensure that any parts not burned up by re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere, will fall somewhere safely away from populated areas.

Later, they will have to try to figure out what went wrong with the vehicle. And at some point, perhaps think about a future mission to Phobos.

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Do you think that Russia should consider a future space mission to Phobos? Make a list of four reasons why you think they should try again (pros) and four reasons why you think they should not (cons).

Reading Prompt: Metacognition
As you read, what questions did you need to ask yourself to make sure you understood today’s article? Were there words and terms you didn’t understand? What strategies can you use to go back and find out what they mean?

Identify, initially with some support and direction, what strategies they found most helpful before, during, and after reading and how they can use these and other strategies to improve as readers (OME, Reading: 4.1).

Junior & Intermediate
Identify the strategies they found most helpful before, during, and after reading
and explain, in conversation with the teacher and/or peers or in a reader’s notebook, how they can use these and other strategies to improve as readers (OME, Reading: 4.1).

Grammar Feature: Possessive
When a noun (person, place, or thing) has something which belongs to it, the noun becomes possessive. For example, Daniel’s coat, the boys’ soccer ball, and the girls’ tennis rackets. It’s easy to find possessive nouns because singular nouns are followed by apostrophe and s ( ‘s ) and plural nouns ending with s are followed by a single apostrophe ( ‘ ). Today’s article contains many examples of possessive nouns, including: Phobos-Grunt’s engines, Earth’s atmosphere, and Mars’s moon.

Correct the following paragraph by inserting  an apostrophe ( ‘ ) in its correct location.

Munirs dad bought a brand new car. His dads dream had come true. Munir and his brothers would be happy too. Their dads last car was really terrible. The neighbours kids always used to cover their ears when it came by because it was so noisy. Their friends would always laugh as it struggled to make its way down the street. Even their friends parents couldn’t help but notice that Munir and his brothers spent more time pushing it, than riding in it. And when Munirs dad finally came home, driving his new automobile, his moms first words were, “let’s do something special for dinner tonight, drive-through!”