Those Russian Space Geckos are Out of Control!
Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has still not regained control of the unmanned Foton-M4, a biosatellite that is refusing to communicate with mission control. Experts do report that the five geckos onboard are doing fine, and are likely to start "getting busy," unaware that anything is the matter.
The Foton-M4 launched just last week on July 19. Soon after the craft entered a low orbit with the Earth, Roscosmos lost contact with onboard primary computers. The satellite is continuing to send data, but is unable to raise its orbit or receive additional commands, Roscosmos officials announced publically via social networking yesterday.
And that's bad news for the organisms on board. The Foton-M4's mission was to study the effects of weightlessness on plants, geckos and insects, as well as the growth of experimental semiconductor crystals.
Roscosmos assures those afraid for the intrepid lizards that their time aboard the Foton-M4 will at least be comfortable, as the craft is fully equipped with life support and automated systems designed to maintain ideal conditions for the geckoes.
"We process and analyze the telemetry information we receive from the spacecraft about its systems functioning. The results of analysis show that all support systems of the satellite are operating in a proper way," the agency announced, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
However, as of Thursday, the Mission Control Center (MCC) didn't actually know of the geckos' fate.
"The objectives of the MCC do not include health assessment of the living organisms on board the Foton, so the status of geckos, fruit flies, silkworm eggs, mushrooms and seeds of higher plants is unknown to us," a representative told RIA Novosti.
Thankfully, this morning the Insatiate of Biotical Problems released some good news.
"The telemetry information we received proves that geckos and fruit flies are alive, healthy and eat regularly. The conditions in the bio capsule are quite comfortable and we assume that they will soon start to reproduce. After all, it was one of the main missions of the scientific program," a representative said, according to the news agency.
According to Roscosmos, experts are still working to reestablish communication. Still, even if it's all too little too late, at least we know that the geckos on board will be a bit too busy to notice that the drag from Earth's upper atmosphere is tearing them from a tenuous orbit.
Carry on, space geckos. Carry on.