Fobos-Grunt, Russia's Failed Sample Return Probe
Fobos-Grunt was a Russian mission to Mars' Moon Phobos, with the intention of returning a sample of size up to 200 grams. The Russian mission also took with it the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment of the Planetary Society. The mission had a launch failure which resulted in the payload never leaving low Earth orbit, and eventual uncontrolled re-entry destruction into the Pacific Ocean.
Fobos-Grunt was conceived in 1999 and developed from 2001 onwards. The total actual cost was $ 64 million out of a planned cost of $ 163 million had the mission continued. The Chinese were added to the mission in 2007. Launch was initially scheduled for a launch window in 2009 but was delayed to the next launch window in 2011 due to the software not being ready and adequately tested.
The vehicle was successfully launched and parked into a low Earth orbit, but the second stage failed to fire as scheduled. There were also communications problems. Multiple efforts to fire the second stage failed. Over time, the orbit decayed and the probe entered an uncontrolled re-entry two months after its launch from Earth. No parts have been found yet, and it is believed to have come down in the Pacific Ocean.
A commission investigated the failure and concluded that the problem was the software, due to poor quality control and possibly corruption.
Components designed from Fobos-Grunt may be used in a mission in the distant future.