MOSCOW (AFP) - A Russian probe on a mission to a moon of Mars Wednesday failed to take its course to the red planet, in a potentially devastating blow to Moscows hopes of resuming planetary exploration. The Phobos-Grunt probe blasted off successfully from the Baikonur cosmodrome overnight but did not manage to leave its Earth orbit as planned several hours later to go on its planned trajectory for Mars, the Russian space agency said. Engineers now have three days to send the probe out to Mars while batteries last. The loss of the probe would be a disaster for Russia, which has not had a single successful planetary mission since the fall of the Soviet Union. We have three days while the batteries are still working, said Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin. I would not say its a failure. Its a non-standard situation, but it is a working situation. The hugely ambitious mission aimed to place the craft in orbit around Mars, land a probe on the surface of its largest moon Phobos, scoop up soil and bring the first ever sample of the Martian satellite back to Earth. The probe continues to orbit Earth and experts now must try to reprogramme it and direct it toward the red planet. Popovkin said that mission control was aware of the position of the probe in Earth orbit and it still had fuel on board. But even ahead of launch, Popovkin had admitted the mission was a risk, saying that 90 percent of the craft consisted of completely new equipment as Russia had done almost nothing in planetary exploration for 20 years. The risk of a failure was very high. Unfortunately, the worst predictions have come true, a source in the Russian space industry told the Interfax news agency.