Russia’s mission control center has lost contact with the research satellite. The Foton-M4 craft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 19. The satellite had five geckos – one female and four male – to study the effects of zero gravity on their sex lives. Besides, it also carried fruit flies and plant seeds.
Foton-M4 was a continuation of Russia’s Bion spacecraft
Russian space scientists said that the Foton-M4 craft is not responding to their commands. However, the Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, noted that it continues to transmit details on its location and the performance of its systems. There is only one-way contact, but engineers were working to restore contact. Biologists at Russia’s Institute of Medico-Biological Problems thought it would be interesting to study the effects of weightlessness on mating of lizards, reports Interfax.
The Foton-M satellites are continuation of the Bion spacecraft, which have been used to study the effects of space travel on various species. A Roscosmos official said even if the satellite is recovered, carrying out the planned experiments could be at risk. However, one-way communication will ensure that scientists will still be able to watch videos of geckos mating at zero-gravity.
Russia has seen several space missions failing in the recent past
Multiple failures and technical difficulties have raised questions over Russia’s space capabilities. In 2011, the Phobos-Grunt probe crashed down to Earth shortly after its launch. Last year, equipment failure aboard the Bion-M satellite killed most of the fish, mice and gerbils it was carrying. Roscosmos said on its website that the Foton-M4 looked like “twin brother” of Bion-M, which was launched last year.
Roscosmos said Thursday that the telemetry showed that the spacecraft’s onboard systems were performing well. The agency added that the Foton-M was capable of operating independently for a long-time as engineers try to reestablish contact. An unnamed head of Russia’s satellite manufacturer told Izvestia that conducting scientific experiments autonomously and automatically is almost impossible for the satellite.