Monday, November 07, 2011

Russia back in 'Space Race' with Mars moon lander

Moon Lander
Russia hopes to end a humiliating two-decade absence from deep space with the launch on Wednesday of an ambitious three-year mission to bring back a soil sample from Mars' moon Phobos russian scientists have dreamed of probing the Red Planet's potato-shaped satellite since the 1960s heyday of pioneering Soviet forays into space.

Dust from Phobos, they say, will hold clues to the genesis of the solar system's planets and help clarify Mars' enduring mysteries, including whether it is or ever was suited for life but the USD $163 million Phobos-Grunt mission is haunted by memories of past failures in Moscow's efforts to explore Mars and its moons.

"Mars has always been an inhospitable planet for Russia. The United States has had much more success there," said Maxim Martynov, the project's chief designer at NPO Lavochkin, the major Russian aerospace company that made the Phobos-Grunt Russia kept rocketing cosmonauts into orbit though the purse-pinched 1990s and is now the only country whose craft now carry crews to the international space station.

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