Less than one week after its launch, Russia has lost control of a research satellite carrying various organisms, including five geckos, which was testing the effect of weightlessness on mating.
The satellite -- Foton-M-- was launched on July 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and while it continues to transmit information on location and system performance, a press release from the Federal Space Agency sent out yesterday reported that it is not responding to mission control commands.
However, other systems are operating normally and the satellite continues to orbit on autopilot. Scientists are currently attempting to re-establish a connection with the operating system to ensure its controlled return to Earth, but it doesn’t look good for the little fellas right now.
Researchers from Russia’s Institute of Medico-Biological Problems, who headed the study, have reportedly said that they are still able to observe the frisky behavior of geckos on board the craft and may be able to salvage some information on how sexual behavior is affected. However, they did not confirm whether the lizards had successfully done the deed or not.
In addition to these experiments, Foton-M was also being used to investigate the growth of crystals in microgravity for a variety of applications including the generation of semiconductors and biomedical products.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to Russia’s space program. Last year, a similar satellite called Bion-M experienced a massive system failure, killing the majority of animals on board including gerbils, mice and fish. In 2011, the Phobos-Grunt also plummeted back to Earth shortly after its launch.
[Header image "Hallo Gecko!" by Schub@, via Flickr, used in accordance with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]