Russians Intent on Trying to Explore Phobos Again

Phobos moon
Martian moon Phobos

If at first (second, third and fourth) you don’t succeed, the fifth time’s the charm.

That’s at least what Russia’s Space Research Institute is hoping. The institute is once again planning an ambitious mission to the Martian satellite Phobos despite repeated setbacks in exploring the potato-shaped moon over the past 25 years that are part of a half century of failure at the Red Planet.

ITAR-TASS quotes Space Research Institute Director Lev Zeleny as saying that during the next decade, Russia will try to repeat the ill-fated Phobos-Grunt mission, an ambitious effort to return soil samples from the moon that failed to leave Earth orbit in 2011.

Phobos-Grunt was the fourth failed mission to Phobos. The Soviet Union launched twin spacecraft to the moon in 1988. One failed en route to Mars; controllers lost contact with the other just after it reached Martian orbit. A follow up attempt called Mars-96 launched eight years later failed to leave Earth orbit due to a faulty booster.

The next Phobos mission is likely a decade away, and it will be proceeded by projects that will give Russia some much needed expertise in exploring the moon and Mars.

The Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) in partnership with the European Space Agency will be carrying out two stages of the ExoMars mission in 2016 and 2018.

In 2016, Roscosmos is planning to join Europe and Japan in the BepiColombo project.

In 2017, it will orbit the Spektr-RG telescope and send a Russian rover, Luna-Globe, to the Moon in 2019, for the first time in years.

An UV observatory is to be launched in 2020; an orbiting module and a dropship are scheduled to be sent to the Moon in 2012 and 2023, respectively.

After thoroughly testing lunar and Martian technologies, approximately in 2024, Russia, may repeat its Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars’ satellite Phobos to collect its soil and bring it back to Earth.

Russia is planning a manned mission to the Moon in 2030-2031, Roscosmos First Deputy Head Alexander Ivanov said in July.

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