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Malfunctioning Russian probe spotted hurtling through space backward (+video)

Veteran satellite watcher Thierry Legault filmed the wayward Russian Phobos-Grunt probe, which was intended to collect soil samples from a Martian moon but is instead heading toward a destructive plunge back to earth. 

Skywatcher Thierry Legault spotted the wayward Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, which appears to be moving backward, with its solar panels facing away from the sun.
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A veteran skywatcher has snapped an amazing video of Russia's failed Mars probe as the craft heads toward a destructive plunge into Earth's atmosphere this month.

Satellite sleuth Thierry Legault captured the impressive video of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe Jan. 1 from the Calern Plateau observatory above Nice in the French Riviera.

Russia's Federal Space Agency launched the Phobos-Grunt probe in November, only to see it fail to depart for Mars shortly after reaching Earth orbit. It has been stranded in orbit ever since.

Legault reported on his website that his new video shows no sign of the spacecraft tumbling.

"The unexpected thing that I realized when I looked carefully at the video is that Phobos-Grunt is moving backwards," Legault said, "with its solar panels deployed but at the opposite of the sun. It's not surprising that it had no energy to communicate!"

Spotting the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe

Legault's observation spurred Ted Molczan of Toronto, a leader in the amateur satellite- spotting network, to study the spacecraft's orientation.

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