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Russian-Europe ExoMars mission to head for Mars in 2018

28 January 2014, 15:27

The human path to Mars should lay through consistent development of space technologies on asteroids and on the Moon. This view expressed the President of RSC Energia Vitaly Lopota and head of Lavochkin Association Viktor Khartov at the Korolyov Readings in Bauman Moscow State Technical University on Tuesday. The mission of landing the module of the Russian-European ExoMars project starts in 2018, Lavochkin General Director Viktor Khartov said at the 38th Academic Space Exploration Readings.

'We are creating a two-tonne landing module for this mission. It will transport a 3,000-kilogram European rover to the surface of Mars,' Khartov said.

According to Lopota, in the nearest future, Mars would be a priority in terms of colonization and research. The road map of Mars exploration contemplates two scenarios: to reach it through an asteroid and then through the Moon, or vice versa.

"The wise way is to create technology designed for Mars, to use the Moon for testing the required technologies, and the asteroids are a challenge that we should always be able to meet in case of threat," the expert noted.

Meanwhile, Khartov believes that first people should learn how to bring soil from Mars and its satellite Phobos. According to the plan announced by the scientist, the Boomerang project should feature the following pattern of bringing soil from Phobos: a space vehicle delivers on the satellite of Mars a lander that takes soil samples and 'shoots upwards a capsule with soil,' which is picked up by another space vehicle near Phobos that sends it to Earth.

The scientist added that this scheme is almost the only possible one to solve the issue of bringing Martial soil to Earth.

The implementation of the Boomerang project is planned for approximately 2020. This project is the first stage of a more large-scale plan dubbed Expedition M, which is scheduled for launch in 2024. It is intended to deliver on Mars a fly-back rocket that would put into orbit a capsule with soil to be picked up by another space vehicle and brought to Earth.

Khartov also recalled that up from 2016, Russia would start its Moon program that should result in bringing Moon soil to Earth.

As to the Venus mission on which Lavochkin is working, Khartov said, 'the Venera-D spacecraft will be launched after 2020'.

A Proton-M launch vehicle will propel the spacecraft to the skies. Temperatures are high, approximately 500 degrees Celsius, on the surface of Venus, which means 'the spacecraft will have to withstand the planetary surface conditions for about 24 hours,' he said.

Phobos-Grunt mission could be repeated in 2022-2025 - Roscosmos

The Russian Federal Space Agency will repeat its Phobos-Grunt program, a mission to scoop up soil from Martian Moon Phobos, in 2022-2025, Roscosmos director Vladimir Popovkin said.

'The Space Exploration Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences has reviewed the program of research missions. We will concentrate on Moon in the short-term prospect, as well as on Mars together with Europeans, and then we will certainly repeat the Phobos mission. I think it will happen in 2022-2025,' Popovkin said at a session of the Russian Academy of Sciences board in Moscow on Tuesday.

The first Phobos-Grunt interplanetary mission was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 9, 2011, but subsequent rocket burns intended to set the craft on a course for Mars failed. Phobos-Grunt crashed into the Pacific Ocean on January 16, 2012, after two months of unsuccessful attempts to restore contact with the rover and switch on its engines.

The vehicle was to have returned to the Earth carrying soil samples from Martian Moon Phobos in August 2014. Unofficial reports estimated the cost of the project at some five billion rubles.

Russia, Europe to launch joint Mars mission to sample soil for signs of life

Russia and Europe signed a deal for a joint Mars mission which will bore beneath the Red Planet's surface for soil samples they hope will solve the mystery of whether there is life beyond Earth.

The announcement comes amid heightened excitement over the search for life on the planet in our solar system most like Earth after scientists said analysis from NASA's own mission rover, Curiosity, showed Mars had the right ingredients for life.

European scientists say the two-stage mission, with the two craft to be launched in 2016 and 2018, will pave the way for what NASA has described as the Holy Grail of Mars exploration: a separate mission to return dirt samples from the Red Planet.

'Curiosity learnt us a little bit, ExoMars will bring us a step further, but bringing back those samples to Earth you can do 10 to 100 times more analysis,' Rolf de Groot, head of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Robotic Exploration Coordination Office, said. 'That is a goal of everybody who works on Mars exploration.'

The Europe-Russia mission hopes to take scientists beyond NASA's finding that the surface of Earth's neighboring planet had the right mix of elements to sustain life, by drilling 2 meters (6 feet) below its radiation-hit surface for samples.

'NASA is also drilling, but two centimeters deep,' de Groot said, referring to the ongoing Curiosity mission. 'It's a completely different story. ExoMars, by drilling 2 meters into the ground, might hope to identify really the big molecules because that would be a direct indication of the presence of life or that life once existed on Mars.'

He said the ESA's Mars rover would also be equipped with a much more advanced laboratory than Curiosity has, so would be able to carry out more detailed analysis.

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos will provide the rockets to launch the ExoMars - short for Exobiology on Mars - mission and will also design the descent module and surface platform.

Europe turned to Russia after NASA left the $1.3 billion project in February 2012, citing a budget crunch. The ESA and Roscosmos agreed to cooperate last April, but talks to work out the details dragged on for nearly a year.

'This event was a long time in the making and took a great deal of collaboration,' Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said after signing the deal with ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain in Paris.

Russia's involvement in the ambitious mission could boost the status of its once-pioneering space agency after a litany of costly and embarrassing failures.

The delays in agreeing the mission hinged on the extent of Russia's participation, according to Russian space experts who said Moscow had seemed to reach its goal of full partnership.

'The agreement implies that Russian scientists and engineers will become full-fledged participants in all the international scientific and technical groups,' Roscosmos said in a statement.

What was to be Russia's first deep space mission in more than two decades - the Phobos-Grunt mission to scoop up soil samples from Mars - was among five botched launches that damaged Moscow's reputation as a reliable launch partner.

European governments have so far committed 850 million euros to the mission. The funding cap has been set at 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) but delays and changes to the scientific aspects of the project are expected to drive up the price tag.

Even though NASA pulled out, it will still provide radio communications equipment, an important organics experiment and engineering and mission support.

The United States also plans to follow up its Curiosity rover with an identical probe, to launch in 2020. It has not yet decided if it will cache samples for a future return to Earth.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2011 ranked a Mars sample return mission as its top priority in planetary science for the next decade. The long-term goal of the U.S. human space program is to land astronauts on Mars in the 2030s.

Voice of Russia, Interfax, Reuters, TASS

Source: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_01_28/ Russian-Europe-ExoMars-mission- to-head-for-Mars-in-2018-7933/

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