Russian space agency Roscosmos issued a number of statements earlier today indicating that their Foton-M4 satellite is in trouble. According to Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS, the scientific research satellite with its payload of experiments is still sending back telemetry, but it's unresponsive to commands sent from the ground. In a separate report, ITAR-TASS quotes a Roscosmos representative as saying that Foton-M4 is designed for "durable autonomous operation," but the lack of ground control jeopardizes the experiments slated to be carried out on board the Foton-M4—not to mention the health of its living cargo.
Foton-M4 was launched on July 19 carrying five geckos—small lizards that favor tropical and subtropical climates (and, apocryphally, sell insurance). The lucky lizards—one male and five females—were sent into their 575-kilometer low earth orbit in order to study the effect of microgravity
on their reproductive habits, with scientists monitoring their behavior through a video downlink to the ground.
The lizards aren’t joining the 357-Mile High Club alone; the satellite is carrying an additional biological payload of flies, plant seeds, and assorted microorganisms, along with 850kg of scientific instrumentation to support...
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