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Russia May Join Mars Orbiter Project in Nov. ESA

RIA Novosti

16:03 08/06/2012 STAR CITY (Moscow region), June 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russian space agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) could sign a final agreement on Russia’s participation in a Mars research project in November, ESA spokesman Rene Pischel said on Friday.

“The work is underway and we are finishing up the coordination,” Pischel told reporters. “The final agreement should be signed after the ESA ministerial conference in November.”

ESA official added that Russia could contribute its experience in preparation for the launch of Mars probe Phobos-Grunt to the project.

The ExoMars program to send an orbiter to Mars in 2016 and a robot rover two years later was originally run jointly by NASA and ESA. NASA later said it would cut its participation in the project and will not provide its Atlas carrier for the launch.

Russian scientists and space officials repeatedly hinted at their intention to join the project, offering to provide Proton carrier rockets for the launches in exchange for full membership.

Roscosmos earlier said Russia’s financing of ExoMars could be partially covered by insurance payments of 1.2 billion rubles (about $40.7 million) for the lost Phobos-Grunt sample probe to Martian moon Phobos.

Russia’s participation in the project has been approved by the space council of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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