Main section on the Phobos mysteries.
An unnamed analyst offered these comments:
THE FAILURE OF PHOBOS 1 AND 2:
Phobos 1 was lost in early September 1988, when a Soviet controller sent a string of commands consisting of tens of thousands of digits in which a single digit was wrong - a plus and a minus were confused. He inadvertently pointed the craft's antenna out of range of Soviet communications, and the incorrect commands shut down the probe's pneumatic systems, causing it to lose its orientation with the Earth and begin tumbling out of control.
Phobos 2 had NUMEROUS problems, WAY BEFORE it came close to Mars. In late 1988, the probe lost two of its three TV channels and had to use a backup transmitter. Many instruments aboard the spacecraft were running hot, including a plasma experiment designed and developed by a team of U.S. and Hungarian researchers to measure electron and ion densities around the planet (Data would have been used to determine what affect the Solar wind has on the planet and whether Mars has a magnetic field). That experiment was halted before the probe stopped transmitting.
The Phobos series was the first by the Soviets that wasn't designed and controlled entirely by the military - an outside contractor designed it. In recent years, its generation of spacecraft has been recognized as a LEMON.
Phobos 2 was lost in March 1989 as it approached the moon Phobos. Soviet scientists of the Space Research Institute in Moscow complained that the new, sophisticated spacecraft actually was designed for purposes other than those for which it was being used on the missions to Phobos. Among other things, its data-return rate was too low. Engineers adapted it for the mission in order to flight-test it for future missions to which it was considered better suited, such as a then-planned 1994 landing on Mars.
When the failure occurred, the craft's camera was taking pictures of a planned landing site on Phobos, where the orbiter was to swoop down and drop off a pair of robot explorers on the surface. But the craft wasn't designed for such remote sensing and because there was no special scanning platform for the camera, the entire craft had to rotate to record the images. A scientist said there had been a brief, faint signal that indicated the craft was spinning slow before it vanished.
There were no "strange objects" photographed prior to the disappearance of the probe.