Back in the pioneering days of space exploration, probes launched to Mars had a shockingly high failure rate. It wasn't until the landings of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that humans finally managed an overall 50 percent success rate.
NASA engineers in the old days used to joke rather grimly about the "Great Galactic Ghoul" lurking in space, ready to gobble up vehicles heading for Mars.
Well, the Ghoul is still on the job. The Russian Phobos-Grunt probe (I didn't name it) suffered an engine failure in orbit. Instead of blasting off for Mars it will probably wind up dropping into an ocean somewhere.
The American Curiosity rover is set to launch in two weeks, and if it gets past the Ghoul it may be the last pesky Earth machine to bother Mars for a long time. The Administration is backing away from plans to send more missions in 2016 and 2018, and any thoughts of a manned voyage seem to be permanently on hold.
The Ghoul is winning.