The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has conceded there was little chance of reviving its Mars mission, Phobos-Grunt. The probe has been stuck in an initial launch orbit around the Earth since its launch on 9 November, unable to fire the engine that would put it on course to the Red Planet.
Roscosmos deputy head, Vitaliy Davydov, conceded the situation was bad. "One should be a realist," he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
"If we've been unable to establish communication with [Phobos-Grunt] for such a long time, there are few chances that we shall fulfil the expedition now," he was quoted as saying.
"If we establish contact [with the probe] and begin to understand what's wrong with it, then we shall be able to draw some conclusions," Davydov said.
Subsequently, another Russian news agency, Interfax, quoted Davydov as saying that Phobos-Grunt might fall from orbit anytime between late December 2011 and February 2012.
"It is an interesting question how [the probe] will behave. There is fuel on board. If there is an explosion, it is one thing, but if it simply starts falling apart with no explosion, then it is another thing," Interfax quoted him as saying.