Pieces of a Russian space probe, the Phobos-Ground, failed to escape orbit after its Nov. 9 launch and fell about 775 miles west of Wellington Island, Chile.
Because of the time constraints of preparing the Mars moon mission, Russia’s space chief felt the launch was not properly prepared, which could have contributed to the craft’s spectacular failure, according to The Associated Press.
A spokesman for the Russian military, Col. Alexei Zolotukhin, explained that they had been monitoring the imminent crash ever since the probe had proven defective.
The $170 million spacecraft was meant to travel to one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, collect soil samples and fly back in 2014, which would have given scientists new insight into the solar system and universe.
However, the interplanetary craft failed to escape Earth’s orbit, resulting in highly toxic fragments falling to Earth near Chile, according to a statement by Russian Military Air and Space Defense Forces.
Some Russian ballistics experts feel that the probe remnants landed over much of Brazil, according to RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency.
Even though the Phobos-Ground is a full 14.9 tons and includes 12 tons of poisonous rocket fuel, some specialists feel that the people of Brazil and Chile will be in no real danger once the rest of the craft falls.
“The resulting risk isn’t significant,” said Prof. Heiner Klinkrad, a leading expert on space debris.
Because Earth’s atmosphere can become superheated, much of the aluminum and other fragments would be disintegrated before hitting anything.
“This (crash) is way, way down in the ranking,” Klinkrad told The Huffington Post.
Calculations show that anywhere from 20 to 30 fragments total could land on Earth, weighing about 440 pounds, according to Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.
That means that out of the 110 tons of space debris that falls to the ground every year, only 440 kilograms will belong to the Phobos-Ground.
“This is 200 kilograms out of these 100 (metric) tons,” said Klinkrad, putting the terms in European measurements.