MOSCOW ( AP) — Fragments of a failed Russian space probe are now expected to fall to Earth on Jan. 15, officials said today.

The unmanned Phobos- Ground probe was launched Nov. 9 on what was supposed tohavebeena21/2-yearmission to the Mars moon of Phobus to take soil samples and fly them back to Earth, but it became stuck in Earth’s orbit and attempts to send commands that could propel it toward the Mars moon were unsuccessful.

As the probe’s orbit slowly deteriorated, space officials predicted it would come crashing down between late December and late February.

A precise date was given today by a spokesman for the air and space defense troops, who said any fragments that do not burn up in the atmosphere are expected to fall to Earth on Jan. 15.

The date could still be affected by external factors and Defense Ministry troops are monitoring changes in the probe’s orbit, Russian state news agencies quoted Alexei Zolotukin as saying.

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