Russian space officials said Monday they are preparing two unmanned missions to Mars before 2015.
Georgy Polischuk, director general and designer general of the Lavochkin production and science association, was quoted by the Interfax-AVN news agency as saying the first mission is scheduled for October 2009. A research craft will orbit Mars, and then a rover will be dropped on the surface of Phobos -- one of the tiny twin Martian moons, to collect soil samples to return to Earth.
"The spacecraft will work on Phobos for three years," Polischuk said.
The second mission is intended to land on Mars to conduct various experiments, he added.
"The exact date for (the second) mission has not been set, but it is planned for 2015 at the latest," Polischuk said.
Both missions have been included in Russia's space plan for 2006-2015, he said.
Copyright 2005 by United Press International