Russia may try Mars mission again

Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:02 PM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Russia says it will repeat its Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars if the European Space Agency decides not to include Russia in its planned ExoMars program.

The Phobos-Grunt mission, meant to gather samples from the Red Planet's moon Phobos, was launched on Nov. 9 but was lost due to propulsion failure and fell back to Earth on Jan. 15.

"We are holding consultations with the ESA about Russia's participation in the ExoMars project. … If no deal is reached, we will repeat the attempt [to launch a Phobos mission]," Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

The ESA ExoMars mission plans to send an orbital spacecraft to Mars in 2016 and a robot rover two years later.

The ExoMars program was planned jointly by NASA and ESA but the U.S. space agency has said it would reduce its participation and will not provide its Atlas carrier for the launch.

Russia has said it could provide a Proton rocket to launch a European-led Mars orbiter in exchange for full membership in the exploration project.

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