The research satellite Foton M4 carrying geckoes, Drosophila flies, microorganisms and seeds of higher plants, is returning to the earth after six weeks spent in orbit.
"The satellite is to land in the Orenburg region at about 1:18 p.m., Moscow time, on September 1," a source in the space rocket industry told Interfax-AVN.
Shortly after landing, the bio-tourists will be taken to the Biomedical Problems Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences for further studies. The population of the geckoes may have increased, and four generations of Drosophila flies may have changed in test tubes.
The satellite, launched on July 19, was to spend two months in orbit, but a state commission ordered the satellite's earlier return due to a second communication set-back about a week ago.
Concerns that the satellite may be lost emerged soon after it was launched. The satellite failed to reach the circle orbit at an altitude of about 500 kilometers and found itself on an elliptical orbit (252 kilometers at perigee and 551 kilometers at apogee). Secondly, it remained out of contact for almost a week, which put the lizards, insects and the biological material at risk, given that the satellite cannot return to earth in the absence of communication.
The Foton-M satellite is intended for conducting experiments in microgravity conditions, which generate new information about he physics of zero gravity, perfecting methods of producing semiconductors and biomedical materials with improved characteristics, and doing biological and bioengineering research.
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