Soviet scientists said Wednesday that they had lost contact with the Phobos II space probe and hopes were fading for saving the multimillion-dollar craft that is circling a Martian moon.

"The situation is bad, and honestly there are fewer and fewer hopes. Chances to regain contact with the probe are very small," Alexander Zakharov, a project scientist, said in a telephone interview.Zakharov said a battery of experts was conducting an investigation into the loss of contact with Phobos, an unmanned spacecraft sent more than eight months ago to orbit Mars.

He said mission control lost contact with the probe on March 27. Ground control has received sporadic radio signals from the spacecraft, but no regular contact, Zakharov said.