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Subject: Mars-96 Sleeps With The Fishes
Date: 18 Nov 1996 12:04:28 GMT

Mars-96 Sleeps With The Fishes

USSPACECOM says the entire Mars-96 spacecraft -- the "A" object, which
presumably also includes the still attached Block D-2 -- entered the
atmosphere over the Pacific and hit the surface near Easter Island.

Small debris may have survived. All four probes probably entered safely.
The two "small stations" with their cushioning air bags may even have
floated, like on life rafts, and may still be floating.

It now seems the second D-2 burn failed completely. The first burn was
needed to get the whole stack into parking orbit. The second burn would
have sent the payload into a highly elliptical orbit, from which a
three-minute Mars-96 spacecraft burn would propel it to Mars.

The absence of a a tracking ship in the Gulf of Guinea -- SOP for every
previous interplanatary mission -- may have prevented real-time
knowledge and commanding. The tracking ships are now scrap metal.
Consequently (??), so is Mars 96.

Briefly today there were claims that the Mars probe had separated and
deployed its solar arrays. If so, it could have been commanded into a
stable orbit. Then a small Earth science mission could have been
possible, followed by test landings of the probes. Also, recovery by a
shuttle mission in about a year -- say, STS-88 -would have been

But the latest reports assert that the spacecraft died when its
batteries ran out, still attached to the block D-2 4th stage.

Although SOME latest reports from Moscow say the spacecraft separated
and entered within hours at an unknown location, and only the D-2 hit
near Easter I.

This second re-ignition failure of a Proton Block D, built by RKK
Energiya, within one year, must throw the entire Proton
commercialization into serious doubt.

The other consequences of this severe setback are practical,
psychological, and political. We'll see them work out in the coming

Thanks to all fpspace/newsgroup folks for keeping the communiques

I did pieces for ABC-TV evening news, plus BBC, VOA, NPR, CBS radio, ABC
radio, WCBS(NY), AP Moscow Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and the
Washington Post. I think I was coherent and to the point for most of
them, but only because of all my Internet friends. Thanks!!

Jim O

Subject: Re: UPDATE: Mars 96 impact 500 mi SE of New Zealand
Date: 18 Nov 1996 23:27:01 GMT

Yesterday's frantic chase after the "falling plutonium" from Mars-96 was a
wild space goose chase. It now turns out that the actual spacecraft (cum
plutonium) entered the atmosphere about three hours after launch, and the
object chased for the next twenty four hours was the inert 4th stage
booster. USSPACECOM and the White House were in touch with the Russians,
who KNEW the probe had separated (and suspected it had already
re-enetered) but they told the "US of A" -NOTHING- about this, letting us
grandstand our "sky is falling" drill unnecessarily. Now, who is it out
there who will tell me again how we can trust the Russians?

Subject: Re: Proton Booster Failure Unusual
Date: 19 Nov 1996 12:40:12 GMT

Proton folks say it was a command failure from the s/c to the booster!

Subject: Re: russian mars probe
Date: 19 Nov 1996 04:18:43 GMT

And within past few hours, we received this posting on SeeSat-L from
Igor Lissov:


There're some details on Mars 96 mission events based
on Monday news conference in the Russian Space Agency.
The mission was more difficult (and interesting) than we could think.

Short info:
Proton-K launch vehicle with Block D-2 upper stage and Mars 96
spacecraft (a.k.a. Mars 8) was launched from Baykonur on Nov.16
at 20:48:53 UTC.
Mars 96 with its small stations, penetrators and radioisotopic
generators reentered early on November 17 on orbit 3 near perigee,
presumably in the Soutern Pacific.
Block D-2 reentered on November 18 at approx. 01:13 UTC
and parts of it fell into the Southern Pacific at 01:20 UTC at
50.9S, 168.1W.

More details:
Proton-K (8K82K) worked perfectly and Block D-2 (11S824F) first
burn was made successfully. Initial circular 160 km orbit was
deduced from measurements from ground stations during LEO
insertion and part of orbit 1.
The planned second burn of 3150 m/sec by Block D-2 engine
was not achieved. Instead, some 20 m/sec in wrong direction was
given by Block D-2 resulting in Block D-2 orbit of 145.7x171.1 km.
This was object 1996-064A and it lasted for 28.5 hours. On orbits
2 through 5, telemetery from Block D-2 was recieved. Then the
upper stage was not in sight from Russian ground stations and
by evening of November 17, chemical batteries were depleted and
communications from Block D-2 was not restored. It barely missed
Australia and ended in the Pacific.

Mars 96 separated from Block D-2 after unsuccessfull second
burn in the beginning of orbit 2. Solar battaries and external elements
were deployed and the spacecraft tried to catch the required velocity
by its own engine, the ADU. This was impossible because the
spacecraft had not enough fuel to make a 3700 m/sec delta-V.
So, this burn was not successful either. Moreover, it effectively
killed Mars 96.
On orbit 2, telemetery from Mars 96 was recieved at Yevpatoriya
ground station in Crimea from 22:19:14 till 22:26:55. Ussuriysk
station also recieved signal from Mars 96 from 22:55-22:57.
(Different transmitters were used on Mars 96 and Block D-2 so
the controllers can say for sure which object they tracked) The
spacecraft was found in a kind of orbit of 87x1500+some km.
It survived the first perigee and was tracked by the Russian Center
for Space Surveillance on orbit 3, some 100 minutes after
orbit 2. By this time, flight controllers were ready to command Mars 96
to maneuver to some stable LEO orbit for possible future use in Earth
research. Unfortunately, flying at 87 kilometers proved to be too bad.
On orbit 3, Mars 96 wasn't transmitting already and cannot be
Mars 96 was not tracked on orbit 4 and the conclusion was that it
reentered in orbit 3 perigee somewhere in Southern Pacific.

Igor Lissov
Novosti Kosmonavtiki
VideoCosmos Co.
Moscow, Russia

Subject: Re: Mars 96 to hit Australia at 8:00 PM EST - tonight!
Date: 19 Nov 1996 12:43:38 GMT

((Sorry guys, it missed us!

- Justin (Hobart, Australia)))

Sorry, Aussies, it was all a false alarm! The plutonium had ALREADY landed
a day earlier but our glorious leader wasn't given the full story by his
Russian friends.

Subject: Re: Mars-96 Plutonium Down In Chile??? Film @ 11 !!!
Date: 3 Dec 1996 05:20:19 GMT

Transcribed from Jim Oberg's private archives...

Release No. 41-96, November 29, 1996
usspacecom update on russian space probe

Peterson AFB, COLO. -- U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) has developed new
information indicating that te Russian Mars '96 spacecraft likely came
down on Nov. 16 instead of Nov. 17 as earlier reported. Any debris
surviving the heat of this re-entry would have fallen over a 200-mile long
portion of the Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Bolivia. We now believe that the
object that re-entered on Nov. 17, which we first thought to be the Mars
'96 probe, was in fact the fourth stage of the booster rocket.

Confusion has surrounded key events and times in this mission, including
the last stages of the rocket burn, the separation of the Mars '96 probe
from the rocket, and the final re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere of the
booster and the probe. USSPACECOM has now completed an extensive
post-event analysis that has led to this new conclusion which supports
Russian statements about when their Mars '96 probe re-entered the
atmosphere. The area where any debris surviving this re-entry could have
fallen is located along an approximately 50-mile wide and 200-mile long
path, oriented southwest to northeast. This path is centered approximately
20 miles east of the Chilean city of Iquique and includes Chilean
territory, the border area of Bolivia and the Pacific Ocean.

The following is a chronological version of this space mission as observed

The Russians launched a SL-12 (Proton) four-stage rocket booster from the
Tyuratam space launch facility at 3:49 p.m. EST on Nov. 16. Aboard the
booster was a spacecraft known as the Mars '96 probe destined for the
planet Mars.

The USSPACECOM Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracked the rocket and
boosters throughout the first three stages of launch, and observed,
recorded, and reported an object re-entering the Earth's atmosphere at
7:49 p.m. EST, Nov 16. Absent an indication at the time of any problems
with the Mars '96 probe, U.S. space observers ascribed the Nov. 16th event
as the booster stage re-entry -- which would be normal for a multistage
rocket of this type. The planned separation of the fourth stage booster
from the Mars '96 probe was not observed because it occurred out of view
of U.S. space sensors. The USSPACECOM Space Surveillance Network did track
a single object associated with this launch after monitoring the first
three stages, which at the time was believed to be the booster's fourth
stage still attached to the Mars probe.

On Nov. 17 it became apparent that the Mars '96 mission had not achieved
its intended trajectory to Mars. USSPACECOM continued to track in
near-Earth orbit a single object thought then to be the probe attached to
the fourth-stage booster. On that morning, the Russians requested, through
NASA, USSPACECOM assistance in locating the Mars '96 probe. USSPACECOM
impact predictions were forwarded to the Russians and Australians since
initial predictions indicated that the re-entry would take place over
Australia. Updated analysis of tracking data and orbital parameters placed
the final impact of any surviving debris in the Pacific Ocean 150-200
miles off the coast of Chile at approximately 8:30 p.m. EST.

On Monday, Nov. 18, the Russians announced that a failure on board their
spacecraft prevented the probe from achieving its intended trajectory. The
Russians also said their probe had likely re-entered the atmosphere on
Nov. 16 between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. EST. Based on this information,
USSPACECOM analysts began a detailed review of all available data which
ultimately led to our refined conclusions.

USSPACECOM is not able to estimate what portion, if any, of the Mars '96
spacecraft might have survived re-entry. The United States' interest in
providing this information is to clarify earlier preliminary U.S. reports
that portions of the spacecraft re-entered over the Pacific Ocean hundreds
of miles off the Chilean coast. We are now convinced that any impact of
the probe that might have occurred on Nov. 16 would be within the area
described which includes portions of Chilean and Bolivian territory.

The Russians are in the best position to address the materials on board
their spacecraft and whether any portion of the spacecraft might have
survived the heat of re-entry. On Nov. 27, U.S. officials shared this
information with the Russians and provided information to the governments
of Chile and Bolivia concerning the Nov. 16 Mars '96 re-entry over
portions of their territories.

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Happy First Birthday, Mars-96 Debris.
Date: 16 Nov 1997 05:11:11 GMT

One year ago, Mars-96 dropped eighteen small plutonium batteries onto the Andes
 Mountains at the Chile-Bolivia border area. We don't know if anyone has found
 them, because they probably wouldn't recognize them if they did. As far as I
 know, neither the US nor Russian performed any search operations or even
 issued any local warnings to the populace (the US did send a telegram to the
 Chilean government, I believe), or even gave the countries involved
 photographs of the hardware involved.

Discussion point: was the level of response by Russia and the United States at
 the appropriate level?

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Happy First Birthday, Mars-96 Debris.
Date: 17 Nov 1997 21:57:17 GMT

Allen: "Correct me if it isn't so, but I thought the last, presumably
best, estimate from USSPACECOM had the Mars-96 debris coming down
in that area. I.e., the best available guess is that the plutonium
came down near the Chile-Bolivia border. "

This is quite correct. USSPACECOM's press release (on the Friday after
 Thanksgiving) placed probable impact on a strip crossing the Chilean coast and
 extending to the mountains. When asked about the eyewitness accounts of a
 fireball crossing the coast, USSPACECOM officials said that indeed, yes, it
 was "probable" they were seeing the probe fragments headed inland.

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Happy First Birthday, Mars-96 Debris.
Date: 20 Nov 1997 04:40:55 GMT

Buckcley: <<The key here is the neither Chile or Bolivia has asked for any
 assistance. The Russians can not legally enter those countries until invited.
  Oberg is trying to create a scandal out of nothing again. If there is any
 environmental scandal here, it is that the governments of Chile and Bolivia
 have not asked for help.>>

Do you know this is true or are you just assuming it? That is, why do you feel
 confident in stating as a fact that neither government has asked for help?
 There is considerable contrary evidence to your assertion!

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Happy First Birthday, Mars-96 Debris.
Date: 21 Nov 1997 03:57:04 GMT

<<Also, you might want to consider that the US is not legally bound to help
either. The object was registered as Russian.>>

True. But the US -DID- volunteer to help Australia search, if something Russian
MIGHT fall on them. The Chileans noticed, after something Russian DID fall on
them, that they were considered not important enough for equal treatment.

This was diplomatically clumsy and harmed US relations, and was avoidable if
more care had been taken. IMHO.

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Happy First Birthday, Mars-96 Debris.
Date: 24 Nov 1997 13:36:30 GMT

Frank: <<And formal warnings and cautions may well have been issued, ant *they*
just weren't newsworthy outside of the country....>>

The people INSIDE Chile who were unofficially searching told me about how the
government hindered, not helped, their search and their attempt to alert
people, based on misinformation from external sources (such as the world
press). The only photographs of the actual battery housings that ever were
published in Chile came from me, according to these associates of mine in

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