A powerful U.S. radar signal may be inadvertently responsible for the failure of a Russian Mars probe that crashed into the ocean. There is speculation in Russia that the Phobos-Gunt probe may have been damaged shortly after launch by flying through radar signals that were tracking an asteroid, The Washington Post
Russian space officials had earlier speculated that the probe, which stopped responding to signals on its second orbit and fell into the ocean Sunday, could have been damaged by “a foreign technical facility,” according to the Post.
“There is a possibility that the station accidentally entered the area covered by the radar, which resulted in a failure of its electronics caused by a megawatt impulse,” a source told the Russian newspaper Kommersant, according to the Post. “After that, it could no longer give a command to switch on the Phobos propelling system.”
NASA scientists rejected the Russians theory, saying they were not using radar on the Marshall Islands to track an asteroid, as suggested by Russian space officials, said Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman.
A Russian news service said investigators planned to use a model of the probe to test whether radiation could have been the cause. “The results of the experiment will allow us to prove or dismiss the possibility of the radars’ impact,” Yuri Koptev, the former head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, who is directing the investigation, told the Post.
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