If you've been following the demise of the failed Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, you may have seen the rather extraordinary claims that America 'shot down' the spacecraft. The story exploded this week with a Russian newspaper publishing more details of the accusations. I thought it would be a good idea to do a little sanity check on these ideas, and New Scientist published the results:
"First there were cries of sabotage, although there was never a clear motive. Now the bizarre suggestion that the US shot down Russia's Phobos-Grunt space probe has morphed into a slightly less strange claim. A Russian newspaper has reported that radar beamed from a US military base could have accidentally damaged the probe, leading to its demise.
The spacecraft launched on 9 November with the aim of returning soil samples from the surface of Mars's largest moon, Phobos, but mysteriously failed to fire its upper-stage rocket and became stranded in Earth orbit until it re-entered the atmosphere on Sunday. How plausible is the suggestion that radar is to blame for the probe's failure? ..."
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