I was very sad to hear about the problems with the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission. Before you English language readers laugh about the name, “grunt” means “soil.” This mission was going to bring back a sample from the surface of the Martian moon Phobos. Instead, it’s circling the Earth, while technicians are desperately trying to make radio contact with it and find out if they can still salvage the mission.
I wrote about this flight once because the Planetary Society is part of this mission. It has included a canister with various living organisms. They hoped to find out if any creatures could survive three years of exposure to the vacuum and radiation of space. (My money was on the “water bears.”) If anything did survive, it would support the “panspermia” theory that life can spread from planet to planet by remaining dormant in chunks of space rock for thousands of years.
There have been approximately 25 failed missions to Mars. It’s not an easy task, eh? Let’s pause to remember Russian/Soviet firsts in space exploration. They were responsible for the very first:
Object to escape earth’s gravity
Object to strike the surface of the moon
Images of the far side of the moon
Man and woman in space
Person to go outside a ship in a spacesuit
Soft landing on the moon
Object to strike Venus
Robotic rover on the moon
Soft landing on Mars
Soft landing on Venus
Continuously occupied space station
(There are many more “firsts.” Thank you, Wikipedia)
If the Russians never flew another mission, they would still have glorious spot in the annals of space exploration. Even now, they provide the only way to and from the International Space Station. I say to you at the Russian Federal Space Agency: “Vot moe serce. Ono polno lubvi.” Now send me a revealing photograph and your email address.