Russia aims for first conquest of Mars

Nov 07, 2011 by Stuart Williams
Russian Federal Space Agency specialists work with the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft as they prepare to mount it on board a Zenit rocket at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in October 2011. Russia on Wednesday launches a probe for Mars that aims to collect a chunk of a Martian moon and become Moscow's first successful planetary mission since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia on Wednesday launches a probe for Mars that aims to collect a chunk of a Martian moon and become Moscow's first successful planetary mission since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Phobos-Grunt probe is to blast off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Zenit-2SB rocket at 00:16 am Moscow time (2016 GMT Tuesday), Russia's space agency said in a statement.

Russia hopes the mission will mark a triumphant return to interplanetary exploration, a field from which it has been entirely absent over the last decades even as US probes explored the farthest reaches of the solar system.

If successful, Phobos-Grunt will also help erase the memory of one of Russia's worst ever space failures, when its Mars-96 probe bound for the Red Planet failed to reach orbit and crashed into the ocean in 1996.

Russia is desperate to show it remains a superpower in and is still inspired by the daring spirit of first man in space , in the year it celebrated the 50th anniversary of his historic voyage.

"If Phobos-Grunt fully carries out its mission, then this will be a world class achievement," said Igor Lisov, editor-in-chief of the specialist journal Novosti Kosmonavtiki (Space News).

"The problem with Russian space exploration has been that people have forgotten the taste of victory. The task of this mission is to restore confidence in our abilities and the importance of the task," he told AFP.

The voyage also comes as the world's space powers are showing renewed interest in the possibility of sending a man to in the next decades, possibly in the 2030s.

An undated hand out computer generated image shows a planting unit cowling of the Phobos-Grunt space project. The Phobos-Grunt probe is to blast off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Zenit-2SB rocket at 00:16 am Moscow time

Last week six men emerged from 520 days in isolation in Moscow after an unprecedented experiment that attempted to test the psychological and physiological effects of a return trip to Mars.

But even in the heyday of Soviet space exploration, Moscow had little luck with Mars. It sent a number of failed missions as NASA enjoyed great success with its Mariner and Viking probes, the latter of which landed on the Red Planet.

The Soviet Union sent its last probes to Mars -- both named Phobos -- in the late 1980s. But the first failed to reach a Martian orbit and the second failed when contact was lost shortly after its arrival.

Most humiliating was the failure of the ambitious Mars-96 probe in November 1996 which broke up over the Pacific Ocean in a disaster that appeared to symbolise the disintegration of the Russian space programme at the time.

The main aim of the Phobos-Grunt mission is to bring back the first ever soil sample from Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons (the other is called Deimos).

In a landmark space cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, the probe is also expected to deploy a Chinese satellite, Yinghuo-1, which will go into orbit around Mars and observe the planet itself.

If all goes to plan, Phobos-Grunt should reach Mars in 2012 and then deploy its lander for Phobos in 2013 before returning the sample back to Earth in August 2014.

Phobos, which orbits Mars at a radius of just under 10,000 kilometres, is believed to be the closest moon to its planet anywhere in the solar system and scientists hope it will reveal secrets about the origins of the planets.

The probe is carrying numerous international experiments including a capsule of microbes prepared by the US Planetary Society to see if basic life forms can survive on a long mission in deep space.

Phobos-Grunt was to have been launched in 2009 but the date was put back until 2011, the soonest possible launch window when the planet's relative proximity to Earth makes a voyage feasible.

Explore further: An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia delays Mars probe launch until 2012: report

Sep 16, 2009

Russia will pushed back its flagship satellite mission to Mars' moon until 2011 in a move which will delay the joint launch of China's first Mars probe, space sources were cited as saying Wednesday.

Europe and Russia sign Mars exploration deal

Aug 19, 2009

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday signed a deal with its Russian counterpart Roscosmos to cooperate on two Mars exploration projects, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Phobos flyby images (w/ Video)

Mar 15, 2010

Images from the recent flyby of Phobos, on 7 March 2010, are released today. The images show Mars' rocky moon in exquisite detail, with a resolution of just 4.4 metres per pixel. They show the proposed landing ...

Recommended for you

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

2 hours ago

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

2 hours ago

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

3 hours ago

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 ...

Steering ESA satellites clear of space debris

3 hours ago

Improved collision warnings for its Earth observation missions means ESA controllers can now take more efficient evasive action when satellites are threatened by space junk.

User comments : 35

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Husky
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 07, 2011
if putin have his way he personally ride a motorbike with a russian flag and a shoulder mounted rocketlauncher on the surface of mars to bolster his image of strong russian bear
Pirouette
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2011
LOL Husky. . . .yes, Putin has a huge ego to massage. He loves the adoration of the Russian people, especially the peasants who most likely will vote for him. It's unlikely that the more affluent Muskovites will vote for him. They already know all about him and his thirst for power. AND they understand that once a KGB, always a KGB.
On the other hand, IF the Russians are successful at landing this probe on Phobos, it would be another step for mankind, and would give proof that Sample Return is possible, no matter which country does it.
However, I would still rather that any Sample Return NOT be brought directly back to Earth. Safety practices would send the sample to the ISS and directly into a special science receiving module on the ISS that can be disconnected at once if there is a sign of contamination. There is no way to know if the Sample might contain microbes or larger life that could be harmful to Terran life, be it mammal or plant life.
rawa1
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 07, 2011
Russians cannot even manage the regular flights to ISS..
Pirouette
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 07, 2011
rawa1. . .they DID manage to fly to the ISS just recently. . .haven't you heard?
Pirouette
1 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2011
Hopefully, they will continue with that.
I admire the resilient Russian people and I wish them well and continued freedom. But I fear that Putin plans to enslave them again and may use the military to back him up. I'm sure the Russian scientists are dedicated to research, but even they might be ostracized again if they fail with the Phobos probe. National pride, you know.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
Hopefully, they will continue with that.
I admire the resilient Russian people and I wish them well and continued freedom. But I fear that Putin plans to enslave them again and may use the military to back him up. I'm sure the Russian scientists are dedicated to research, but even they might be ostracized again if they fail with the Phobos probe. National pride, you know.


It seems that Putin and his counterparts in China have gotten just a little smarter over the last few decades. For the most part, I think they realize how little necessity there is for using the military. Corruption, bribes, threats and manipulation of the media and public on a massive scale works so much better for them. They've taken the American example, and twisted it into a tool of oppression while seeming to look fairly modern, "democratic-like", and peaceful.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 07, 2011
Russians cannot even manage the regular flights to ISS..
Americans don't even have a means of reaching the ISS, and you're too broke to change that because you're causing insurrection in seven Islamic nations and our satellites to plant Israeli puppet governments before Russia and China emerge as the dominant world superpowers and slap you silly.

In the new WTO accord you conceded to all our demands. So powerful you are.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (6) Nov 07, 2011
As for the Russian accomplishments in space - we Americans should be embarrassed and ashamed that we have let our government destroy our strong lead in space exploration. The fact that we are reliant on the Russians for transportation is a national disgrace.
kochevnik
4 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2011
As for the Russian accomplishments in space - we Americans should be embarrassed and ashamed that we have let our government destroy our strong lead in space exploration. The fact that we are reliant on the Russians for transportation is a national disgrace.
Actually my old gf makes some decent change translating at NASA for you yanks who only speak one language. She'll retire quite nicely with your continued Republican outsourcing of jobs. So thanks in advance!
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
Russians cannot even manage the regular flights to ISS..
Americans don't even have a means of reaching the ISS, and you're too broke to change that because you're causing insurrection in seven Islamic nations and our satellites to plant Israeli puppet governments before Russia and China emerge as the dominant world superpowers and slap you silly.

In the new WTO accord you conceded to all our demands. So powerful you are.


For once, you are able to string together a few sentences based in fact. This is sadly true.
Pirouette
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
The present political and economic environment in the U.S. is no longer conducive to emphasizing such importance of space exploration and research. This did not happen overnight, but gradually through several administrations, both NASA and Federal. The present administration is de-emphasizing science and military defence to placate the leftist masses, to the detriment of the U.S. economy and space science programs.
The new revolution of America's rabble is almost in full swing. While we are preoccupied with nonsense in our own country and no longer believe in "spare the rod, spoil the child", the Russians and the Red Chinese are forging ahead, not because they are technologically superior, but because they are more focused on the important things, such as a viable space program. We cannot curb the violence from our own people. Some of our civil rights amendments have turned around to bite us and the chickens have come home to roost.
What can we do about it? Absolutely nothing.
Pirouette
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 07, 2011
Kochevnik. . . .unfortunately for your former g/f, there will most likely be no Social Security checks coming to her on a monthly basis. The Ponzi scheme is almost broke. She should have bought gold coins as a hedge against poverty in her old age. So should you. You may do better in Russia or mainland China where I'm sure that you will be treated royally for your faith in their ideology. You can feel sorry for us, the people of America, but please don't underestimate us either. We will still prevail after enough of our people wake up. It's only a temporary setback, never fear.
Pirouette
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 07, 2011
Oh, one more thing, Kovechnik. . . . .

You are sadly mistaken if you think that there will be only TWO countries emerging as the strongest superpowers of the world. Think on it very carefully.
Do you honestly believe that Red China will be content to be the number two (2)superpower? The Russians, if left standing, will become China's "USEFUL IDIOTS" first, then if Russia becomes too strong and forges ahead of China, a racial war will ensue. China has always been racially motivated to prove themselves superior as a race, long before they turned to Communism. Most of Russia is white Caucasian. That is an affront to China's racial sensibilities, especially since their borders run so closely. There will be ONE superpower emerging in the end. So take care with whom you stand.
that_guy
5 / 5 (5) Nov 07, 2011
Russians cannot even manage the regular flights to ISS..

And yet, no one else can manage ANY manned flights to the ISS. And the Russians have made their last flight. So, that was a pretty idiotic statement you made there.

I find it ironic that the Russians/Soviets have essentially littered mars with over a dozen failed spacecraft, and yet they're the only ones who managed to land on Venus and send back pictures.

They've managed to be one of the most successful and unsuccessful batch of space explorers out there. The simpler it is, the more likely they'll fail. The more ridiculously hostile or difficult it is, the higher their chance of success.

Since no one has managed to return a rock from mars or phobos yet, I'll give them good odds on successfully completing this one.
Shootist
3.4 / 5 (7) Nov 07, 2011
Let 'em have it. America doesn't need a space program. We have the 99% that needs bailing out.

Obama told me so.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
And the Russians have made their last flight.



The Russians have made their last flight? Not sure I read that right. Perhaps I misunderstood your intent.

See the NASA approved flight schedule below:

http://www.nasa.g...ule.html
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
rawa1. . .they DID manage to fly to the ISS just recently. . .haven't you heard?
Yep, I heard of it. It was third attempt and just unmanned fly. The Russians are unreliable.

http://www.satnew...72369255

BTW Their effort to reach the Mars is just an pretension to break Outer Space Treaty. Because it would require the nuclear engines tested in the atmosphere. Which would bring the risk of global plutonium pollution at the case of failure.
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
And the Russians have made their last flight.



The Russians have made their last flight? Not sure I read that right. Perhaps I misunderstood your intent.

See the NASA approved flight schedule below:

http://www.nasa.g...ule.html


Ummm...let me rephrase. The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS. I did not mean to imply that there are no more flights scheduled.

Let 'em have it. America doesn't need a space program. We have the 99% that needs bailing out.

Obama told me so.

@Shootist - I'm fairly sure that your comment belongs in a political article/conversation. Since neither apply to this article...
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2011
rawa1. . .they DID manage to fly to the ISS just recently. . .haven't you heard?
Yep, I heard of it. It was third attempt and just unmanned fly. The Russians are unreliable.

http://www.satnew...72369255

BTW Their effort to reach the Mars is just an pretension to break Outer Space Treaty. Because it would require the nuclear engines tested in the atmosphere. Which would bring the risk of global plutonium pollution at the case of failure.


I'd have no objection to that.

But, you're incorrect. The Outer Space Treaty says no such thing.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS. I did not mean to imply that there are no more flights scheduled." - that guy

You mean to say that Missions 30/31, 32/33, etc. for 2012 have been scrapped?

Someone needs to tell NASA!
Callippo
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
The Outer Space Treaty says no such thing.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 banned the stationing and use of nuclear devices in space.
that_guy
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS. I did not mean to imply that there are no more flights scheduled." - that guy

You mean to say that Missions 30/31, 32/33, etc. for 2012 have been scrapped?

Someone needs to tell NASA!

Now I know you're doing this on purpose.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2011
The Russian Federal Republik is launching a new probe to Mars tomorrow. I hope that it succeeds, and also that this success will inspire young Russians to follow in the footsteps of Sergei Korolev and become rocket scientists. A whole new future in VASIMR's like Dr. Chang-Diaz', and other electric nuclear powered rockets beckons us forward. The use of non fluid dynamic electro-magnetic technologies awaits to miniaturize power plants and increase efficiencies. This will also help as the main bar to space propulsion is handling and transporting large amounts of power. The future of our species' survival is in space. In the near term it will be mining for the rare earths that are in short supply on our planet, like iridium which is much more common on our asteroids. This is our system. All of it! It is the manifest destiny of mankind to rise above pettiness and to claim it. Claim it not and our future will be like those of Easter Island who bred too fast and starved.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
The Outer Space Treaty says no such thing.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 banned the stationing and use of nuclear devices in space.


WRONG.

How many ways do I have to say it?

You do NOT understand the wording or specific intent of the OST.
ahmedkazikian
5 / 5 (5) Nov 07, 2011
Please understand: the Russian and American way to do space exploration (and war and other things) is fundamentally different. The Russians take the simplest approach possible: so you see a lot of failures, punctuated by major successes. The Americans take much more stock in safety, testing, etc. So you see lots of minor successes punctuated by catastrophic failures. But the Russians also learn: they are using 50 year old tech to better success than we in America ever used our space shuttles.

Old joke: We needed to write in space. America spent billions and years to develop an amazing pen that can write underwater, upside down, etc. The Russians... they used a pencil.

That is the essence of the Russian ethos!
Pirouette
5 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2011
LOL ahmed. . . .you are so right.
Pirouette
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS. I did not mean to imply that there are no more flights scheduled." - that guy

You mean to say that Missions 30/31, 32/33, etc. for 2012 have been scrapped?

Someone needs to tell NASA!

Now I know you're doing this on purpose.


that_guy. . . . maybe you shoulda added the words "THIS YEAR" to '"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS"?
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (3) Nov 08, 2011
I dont understand the negativity about US manned spaceflight. It still has the largest budget of all, and there are multiple rockets and spacecrafts in development ready to fly in a few years. The gap will be shorter than the one between Apollo and Shuttle programs.
rawa1
5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
I don't understand the negativity about US manned spaceflight.
The western society is oriented to personal safety of individuals. For Russians the price of human life is much lower and they're willing to accept the risk connected with such mission well before the advance in technology will exclude this risk bellow acceptable level. In addition, the cost and technological demands of manned missions are much higher (I mean in order of magnitude) with compare to unmanned missions and the progress in robotics decreases the actual need of manned missions gradually.
that_guy
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
that_guy. . . . maybe you shoulda added the words "THIS YEAR" to '"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS"?


I don't believe that I should have to explain every detail that you guys could pick out in context. It's one thing to add some clarification, it's another to painfully explain everything.

I could have said that "the latest russian ISS flight was successful, and they haven't injured any of our men yet." Does that satisfy your particulars?
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
that_guy. . . . maybe you shoulda added the words "THIS YEAR" to '"The russians have successfully completed the last flight they had scheduled to the ISS"?


I don't believe that I should have to explain every detail that you guys could pick out in context. It's one thing to add some clarification, it's another to painfully explain everything.

I could have said that "the latest russian ISS flight was successful, and they haven't injured any of our men yet." Does that satisfy your particulars?


Oh, NOW I get it! :)
Pirouette
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
@that_guy

I immediately understood what you said as I was reading it. No problem with my comprehension skills. But some others may not comprehend so well. :)
Pirouette
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
Shootist says:
Let 'em have it. America doesn't need a space program. We have the 99% that needs bailing out.

Obama told me so.


Ah yes, the 99% who are, in reality, the great unwashed minority who THINK they are in the majority. Hey, since there is a huge problem in the world with overpopulation, why not ask the 99% to volunteer to get spayed and neutered. . .oops, I meant castrated and hysterectomied. If they continue to bear children, the country becomes more poor. . .thus, less money for space programs.
rawa1
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
It was third attempt and just unmanned fly. The Russians are unreliable.
Exactly as I predicted (I even got two downvotes for it): http://www.physor...obe.html
thematrix606
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2011
For Russians the price of human life is much lower...


You make me picture an old greasy guy with a hammer/wrench in his hand in a small backroom under a shuttle saying
"Is ok... she fly now, no worry, you go in space!"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.