Pacific Ocean - A distress signal from Russia's hapless Mars probe has finally been traced to the bottom of the Ocean slap bang in the middle of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Faint bleeping was picked up late last night by the European Space Agency's Australian tracker following some bandwidth tweakings of the 15m Perth dish that widened the antenna beam's scope.
Someone at the Agency said today that contact with the Phobos-Grunt probe has finally established its true position...some 29,500ft at the bottom of the notorious Japan Trench between the Kuril and the Bonin Islands.
The marine environment at the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench extension could prove tricky with turning on the probe's solar powered battery, adapted from an earlier prototype that ran pioneering 1980s' Amstrad laptops.
Commenting on the development this morning Russian Space Agency sources finally admitted the true scale of their Phobos-Grunt loss.
"We launched it with China's first Mars satellite, the Yinghuo-1, piggy-backed onto the main spacecraft," Major-General Dim Eatery Khrushchev-Bloodyvostock said in a breakfast TV interview.
"However at 1,300-tonnes the extra weight of the Chinese payload may have proved too much for the Phobos-Grunt engine to fire once - to raise its orbit - let alone twice to set course for Mars."
Salvage operations could also prove difficult bearing in mind that particular stretch of the Japan Trench is said to be one of the main causes of tsunamis and earthquakes in northern Japan.
Seismologists suspect that March 2011's megathrust T?hoku earthquake and ensuing Fukushima tsunami were triggered by an expanding faultline somewhere on the Trench bottom.
Yuri Gagarin is 104.