A Russian space probe that was intended to land on a Martian moon has been circling the Earth after equipment failure Wednesday and experts say the craft could become the most dangerous manmade object to ever hit the planet.

Scientists at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are racing to fire up an engine that will keep the probe on track, or risk that it will come crashing down just after midnight on Wednesday.

BBC News reported that the Russian Space Agency said the engine failed to start and that engineers have only three days to correct the problem before the batteries on the probe run out.

"We have three days while the batteries are still working," Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the AP.

"I would not say it's a failure. It's a non-standard situation but it is a working situation."

Space engineers have to reset the spacecraft’s computer program to make it work before its batteries die, the AP reported.

The Phobos Ground probe was launched successfully by a Zenit-2 booster but did not continue its route to Mars and has been circling the earth since.

The $170 million Phobos-Ground craft, manufactured by the Moscow based NPO Lavochkin, was set out to orbit around Mars, land a probe on Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, and collect soil, being the first to ever collect and bring back samples of the alien satellite.

However dttaRussia has not had a successful planetary mission since the fall of the Soviet Union.

As reported in the AP, “the mishap is the latest in a series of recent launch failures that have raised concerns about the condition of Russia's space industries. The Russian space agency said it will establish its own quality inspection teams at rocket factories to tighten oversight over production quality.”

In 1996 Russia’s robotic mission to Mars which included a probe crashed shortly after its launch due to engine failure.

But James Oberg, NASA veteran and space consultant, told the AP that it’s still possible to regain control over the space probe and sending it on its original planned path.

"With several days of battery power, and with the probe's orbit slowly twisting out of the optimal alignment with the desired path towards Mars, the race is on to regain control, diagnose the potential computer code flaws, and send up emergency rocket engine control commands," Oberg said in an email to The Associated Press. "Depending on the actual root of the failure, this is not an impossible challenge."

However, if the controllers fail to regain control over the 14.6 ton spacecraft, Oberg told the AP that the tons of highly toxic fuel it carries would make it the most dangerous manmade object to ever fall from orbit.

"About seven tons of nitrogen teroxide and hydrazine, which could freeze before ultimately entering, will make it the most toxic falling satellite ever," he told the AP. "What was billed as the heaviest interplanetary probe ever may become one of the heaviest space derelicts to ever fall back to Earth out of control, an unenviable record."