In just three weeks, Russia plans to launch a valiant mission to Mars to land on the satellite of Mars, Phobos, and three years later to return to Earth valuable cargo of soil samples.
The aim of the mission is to determine the nature and evolution of Phobos and its impact on the development of Mars and the solar system as a whole. This launch will mark the end of almost dvuhdesyatiletnego break in the Russian study of the Red Planet, which occurred after a failed launch Mars 96.
Take-off, tentatively scheduled for November 5-8, will be performed at Zenit launch vehicles 3-F from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. All elements of the spacecraft are final prelaunch testing at Baikonur.
The spacecraft will approach Mars in 11 months of interplanetary flight, around October 2012. This will be followed a few months after orbital studies of Mars and its two moons, during which to search for safe landing sites. This will be the first attempt to land on Phobos in history. Will be performed a detailed analysis of the surface and the collection of up to 200 grams of rocks and soil with a robotic arm and drill.
After a year of operations on the surface, the device will take off from Phobos and fly back to Earth in about August 2014. Delivered samples will be the first macroscopic samples delivered to the other body in the solar system since the Soviet Luna 24 in 1976.
"The return trip takes 9 to 11 months, after which the capsule will enter Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 12 kilometers per second. Capsule will not be equipped with a parachute and radio, and will slow down because of its conical shape," - said the chief designer of the ship, Maxim Martynov . He added that the ship is equipped with two collectors of the soil, since the properties of the surface of Phobos remain unknown.
The spacecraft weighs about 12,000 pounds and is equipped with 50 pounds of scientific equipment from different countries. On board also will be delivered to the Chinese microsatellite Yinghou-1 weighing 110 pounds. This will be the first Chinese probe to Mars, which will investigate the magnetic and gravitational fields, and the surface of the Red Planet from orbit for 1 year.