A Russian Robot, a Martian Moon

Nov 6, 2011 Full story: www.nytimes.com

In a bold attempt to revive its long-dormant planetary exploration program, Russia is scheduled to launch a new, technologically sophisticated spacecraft this week to gather soil samples from a Martian moon and bring them back to Earth for analysis. Back in the early 1970ís, the Soviet Union, after losing the race to land humans on the Moon, brought back lunar soil samples with robotic devices. It also became the first nation to put robotic devices on Venus and Mars.

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“Pink Ponies of Justice”

Since: Sep 07


#1 Nov 6, 2011
Russia is poised to launch a spacecraft that will land on Phobos, a 17-mile-long rock that is the larger of two Martian moons. It will conduct studies there, extract surface materials, put them in a container, and return them to Earth in a small capsule, all in less than three years. Along the way it will drop off a Chinese satellite that will orbit Mars to study its surface, atmosphere, magnetic fields and other processes.

The main goal is to learn as much as possible about the composition of Phobos to understand its origins, evolution and relationship to Mars and to the beginnings of the solar system. If the probe finds hydrated rocks or even ice just beneath the crust, that could make Phobos a potential future base camp for astronauts. Phobos has such weak gravity that it would be relatively easy for astronauts to land and take off from the surface.

The mission is a welcome sign that Russia and China, which previously focused on flights closer to Earth, are now interested in planetary expeditions. The American space program, which has studied Mars from satellites and with automated rovers on the surface, will also launch a mission later this month to search the planetís surface for signs of water-containing rocks or other conditions favorable to life. It will be helped by an instrument contributed by Russia, which has an enhanced ability to detect traces of water beneath the surface. This is an arena where the more participants the better.

“Pink Ponies of Justice”

Since: Sep 07

Moscow, Russia

#2 Nov 8, 2011
The spacecraft to Mars was launched 15 minutes ago. Till now, everything is OK.

“Pink Ponies of Justice”

Since: Sep 07


#3 Nov 8, 2011
It seems, new failure is coming. On-board engine still not working. They have just a few days to launch it.


Since: Oct 11


#4 Nov 12, 2011
Who will win? Phobos-Grunt or Curiosity rover (being sent in 2 weeks)

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