Russia to Send Life to Mars

Earth Critters Hitch Ride to Martian Moon and Back
Discovery News

No one knows if there is life on Mars, but if all goes well with a Russian science mission later this year, there will be life on the Martian moon Phobos — for a short time anyway.

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Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars Probe to Carry Chinese Instruments

Hong Kong PolyU Press Release

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is working closely with the well-established Russian Space Agency in designing a state-of-the-art space tool which will be carried onboard a Russian spacecraft for the Red Planet in the 2009 Sino-Russian Space Mission – the first strategic interplanetary collaboration between China and Russia.

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Russian Mission Aims to Return Soil Sample from Phobos

Undaunted by a record of near total failure at Mars, the Russian space agency will launch an ambitious mission next year to land on the planet’s moon Phobos and return soil samples to Earth.

The massive 8-ton Phobos-Grunt (“soil”) spacecraft, set for launch in October 2009, would be one of the most ambitious missions ever launched to Mars. It will also be the first Mars spacecraft launched by Russia since the ill-fated Mars 96 mission, which plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

If it works, Phobos-Grunt would be the first successful effort to return soil from a Martian moon. It would also reverse a nearly 50-year record of failure. Of 20 missions launched by the Soviet Union and Russia, not one was a complete success.

Anatoly Zak has a great story about Phobos-Grunt on the Air & Space Magazine website.