It has to be depressing to be a Russian space scientist interested in the Red Planet. In more than half a century, Russia has made about 20 attempts to send probes to Mars, with almost no success whatsoever. Missions have failed to get into space at all, gotten stuck in earth orbit, flown past the planet instead of going into orbit, lost contact, hit the planet too hard. The closest the country came to success was in 1971, when Russia managed to land on the surface, 20 seconds after which the lander died, and in 1973, when it got an orbiting probe into a planned Martian orbit, but it died after just a few days.
Now it’s looking as though the Russians may endure yet another failure. The latest mission, Phobos-Grunt is currently lost in Earth’s orbit.
The experts say that the problem is with the software. If it is the case, there is a good chance of uploading some new commands and getting the mission back on track and on its way to Mars. If there is a problem with the hardware itself, however, the mission will probably be a failure.