16 Jan 2012

Spacecraft debris falls into Pacific Ocean

3:19 pm on 16 January 2012

Debris from a failed Russian spacecraft has fallen into the Pacific Ocean off Chile.

A Russian military official is reported as saying pieces of the Phobos-Grunt craft fell into the sea 1250km west of the coastal island of Wellington on Sunday.

The craft never made it out of Earth's orbit after its launch on a mission to Mars on 9 November last year.

Radio New Zealand International reports that it is not immediately clear whether all debris from the craft fell at that location.

The spacecraft was earlier predicted to plummet into the Atlantic Ocean.

The BBC reports its last orbit took it over Japan and the Solomon Islands and to the east of Australia and New Zealand.

The exact time and place of its return were unknown due to constant changes in the upper atmosphere.

Only 20 to 30 segments weighing no more than 200kg in total were expected survive the re-entry.

The Phobos-Grunt mission was to collect soil samples from Phobos, one of Mars' two moons and bring them back to earth.

It is not the first Russian space mishap lately. An unmanned Progress supply ship bound for the International Space Station crashed into Siberia three months ago.

Russia also lost three navigation satellites as well as an advanced military satellite and a telecommunications satellite in the past year.