Those of you old enough to remember a time when all TV and movie villains were Russian, will remember the Cold War. The media has long been a tool of propaganda.
During those frigid years of international tension, a most peculiar race was taking place. As an indirect show of dominance, the USA (United States of America) and USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) flexed by shooting people and probes into space.
Not all of these space missions were successful. Many rockets exploded, people and animals died, and satellites fell. Almost all of these failures were easily explainable.
The Soviet mission, titled Phobos 2, was an unmanned probe sent to study the moons of Mars. Launched in July 1988. Phobos 2 was to orbit the moons before dropping two landers on the surface of Phobos.
Everything was going according to plan, until a photo of an unknown object was beamed back to Earth. That was when mission control lost contact with the probe.
It became known as The Phobos Incident.
Lost in Space - Phobos 1
Phobos 2 wasn't the first probe sent to study the moons of Mars. This most obvious statement, and conventional naming, implies the existence of a Phobos 1.
Phobos 1 was launched 5 days before Phobos 2. The mission had similar objectives to its latter counterpart. Study Mars' largest moon, Phobos. Secondary objectives were to study the Sun, Mars, and the interplanetary medium (which is, as it turns out, the vacuum of space with bits of matter to spice things up).
Phobos 1 was doomed to failure. While making its way to the red planet, a software update was sent that would end the mission early. The command sequence ordered the probe to turn off its attitude control thrusters.
That's not a typo. Attitude control thrusters are different from altitude thrusters. There is no altitude in space, because directionality loses much of its meaning when you are suspended in nothing. Attitude thrusters control the spacecraft's orientation in space, not the way in which it speaks to its mom.
So the attitude thrusters turned off, and Phobos 1 couldn't orient itself towards the sun any more. Batteries depleted, and the probe stopped sending radio signals back to Earth. That's what I call a bad attitude.
Phobos 2 – All Goes Well
Phobos 2 was determined not to go out like its sibling. The scientists controlling the probe were even more adamant. When you have a spot in a gulag waiting for you, you don't want to waste government money.
The probe made it all the way to Mars, where it settled into an orbit in January 1989. Phobos 2 would orbit the red planet in tandem with the moon, Phobos. From there, it would study the moon in detail.
Over the course of the next 2 months, Phobos 2 managed to map 80% of the moon's surface. It took a total of 37 photos before its eventual demise on 27 March 1989.
The End of Phobos 2
Phobos 2 was scheduled to make a fly-by of the moon's surface. At its closest point, it would be within 50 meters (164 feet) of the moon's surface.
Russian scientists lost contact with Phobos 2 during the fly-by. They waited eagerly for confirmation that the landers had been deployed, to no avail. Tass, the official Soviet news agency, reported:
“Phobos 2 had failed to communicate with Earth as scheduled after completing an operation yesterday around the Martian moon Phobos. Scientists at mission control have been unable to establish stable radio contact.”
The science correspondent for Radio Moscow, Boris Bolitsky, claimed that before the probe stopped transmitting, it sent back weird photos. Whatever had been photographed was “unlike any geologic formation ever seen”. The formations were “spindle-shaped” and 20-25 km in width.
Scientists were baffled. Which is the point where UFO people usually start salivating.
Definitely Aliens, or Are We The Aliens?
It's true, a UFO absolutely, 100%, destroyed Phobos 2 for getting too close to their moon base. Look at the facts, the Phobos 2 probe was in space, and it sent an odd photo back before destruction. That's proof right there!
Shortly after the death of Phobos 2, its last photo was shown on Russian TV. This photo of the Martian surface shows an oval shadow, sharply pointed, cast on the planet's surface.
Adding to the mysterious mystery, one of the mission control teams claimed that Phobos 2 was spinning out of control right before it stopped transmitting. Almost as if it was struck by something, or shot.
There was another photo, released much later. This one was classified as above top secret by US and USSR officials. It shows some sort of cigar shaped object approaching the Martian moon, Phobos.
This photo was shown by Dr. Marina Popvich, a former Soviet test pilot, at a conference in the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco. She made further claims that the photos were discussed by Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush at the Malta summit.
Before you write Marina Popvich off as some kook, consider her accomplishments. She was not only a doctor of Engineering, and acclaimed writer, she was also the first woman to break the sound barrier in a MiG-21 fighter. Dr. Marina tested more than 40 types of planes and helicopters over her prestigious career.
Unfortunately for UFO enthusiasts and the curious at large, the truth will forever dwell in the mists of obscurity. Whether it was a meteor strike, computer malfunction, alien intervention, or some kind of human-made weapon that ended Phobos 2, we'll never know for sure.