News Column

Russia Reptile cosmonauts may be lost in space

July 25, 2014

Alec Luhn in Moscow

Russian mission control has lost contact with a satellite full of geckos slated to participate in a weightlessness experiment, in the latest setback for the country's space industry.

The Photon-M satellite will probably be lost and fall from orbit in a few months unless specialists can re-establish communications with it, a source in the space industry told Interfax news agency. The four female and one male gecko on board will die from hunger within two and a half months or earlier if the craft's life-support systems are also disrupted, the source said.

Part of a research satellite programme stretching back to 1985, the Photon-M satellite was launched into space atop a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on 19 July.

After rejecting future cooperation with Nasa, the Russian government in May announced $52bn (pounds 30bn) in investment in its space industry until 2020. Days later a Proton-M rocket carrying a communications satellite exploded minutes after liftoff. In June, the maiden voyage of Russia's first new spacecraft since the Soviet era, the Angara rocket, was aborted on live TV as Vladimir Putin, looked on. Alec Luhn Moscow

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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