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Russia Proposes Sending Team to Mars

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 677 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... RUSSIA PROPOSES SENDING TEAM TO MARS By Mara D.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2002
      NHNE News List
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      By Mara D. Bellaby
      Associated Press Writer
      Friday, July 5, 2002


      MOSCOW ­­ Russian space officials proposed an ambitious project on Friday to
      send a six-person team to Mars by the year 2015, a trip that would mark a
      milestone in space travel and international space cooperation.

      Russia's space program hopes to work closely with the American agency NASA
      and the European Space Agency to build two spaceships capable of
      transporting the crew to Mars, supporting them on the planet for up to two
      months and safely bringing them home, said Nikolai Anfimov, head of the
      Central Research Institute of Machine-Building.

      The roughly 440-day trip is expected to cost about $20 billion, with Russia
      suggesting it would contribute 30 percent.

      "It must be an international project," said Vitaly Semyonov, head of the
      Mars project at the M.V. Keldysha Space Research Center. "No one country
      could cope alone with this task."

      Russian space officials said they are receiving encouraging signs of
      interest from NASA and European counterparts.

      But NASA spokeswoman Delores Beasley said Friday that the Russians have not
      submitted any formal plan and that the agency would not comment on the
      proposed trip before then. Because of demands from Congress to scale back
      costs, human travel to Mars has not been on NASA's radar recently.

      "We are still very far away," conceded Alain Fournier-Sicre, head of the
      European Space Agency's permanent mission in Russia. "But this kind of
      program is a long-term initiative for every space agency in the world," he
      said, adding that he held a meeting with Russian space officials this week
      to discuss the project.

      Landing humans on Mars has long been a dream of Russian space scientists.
      But even in the heyday of the Soviet space program, when Moscow reported
      success after success, its attempts to reach the Red Planet were marked by
      failure. Soviet scientists began whispering about a "Mars curse."

      The Soviet Union kicked off Mars exploration in 1960 by launching two
      unmanned spacecraft four days apart, but both failed even to make it as far
      as Earth's orbit. One resulted in an engine explosion that scattered debris
      and contamination over the Baikonur launch pad in one of the worst accidents
      in Soviet space history.

      That was followed by repeated attempts and often repeated disappointment.
      The bad luck for Russia continued on Nov. 16, 1996, when the Russians
      launched an ambitious $300 million spacecraft, Mars 96, which they hoped
      would prove to the world that despite their economic struggles after the
      Soviet breakup, they could still run a first-rate space program. Mars 96
      suffered an engine failure just after launch and crashed into the Pacific

      Anfimov said that despite the setbacks, "we never stopped planning and
      seeking opportunities to reach our next goal: Mars."

      NASA's Mars program, plagued by its own series of setbacks, got back on
      track earlier this year when the unmanned Mars Odyssey spacecraft entered
      orbit around the planet and began mapping the mineral and chemical makeup of
      the surface.

      Anatoly Grigoryev, director of the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems,
      which works with all of Russia's cosmonauts, said Russia's plan calls for a
      cargo and a manned ship, which would consist of a commander, a second pilot,
      a flight engineer, a doctor and two researchers. Three members of the team
      would descend to Mars, while the other three would remain onboard the ship
      in orbit.

      Grigoryev said the trip could answer many of the remaining questions about
      Earth's mysterious neighbor.

      "Is there life on Mars? If there is, what kind of life?" Grigoryev said,
      barely able to suppress his excitement. "This would be historic."


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