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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Russia plans to put people on Mars
Artist's rendition of a human explorer on Mars
A Mars landing could come 45 years after the Moon walk
Russian space officials have announced an ambitious project to send people to Mars by 2015.

Mission to Mars
Two ships: one manned, one cargo
Three crew to walk on Mars, three to stay in orbit
Mars Explorer craft to help crew travel on planet
Crew: commander, pilot, flight engineer, doctor, 2 researchers
Leaders of the Russian space programme said the plan needed international co-operation and they hoped to win support from both the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the European Space Agency (Esa).

Scientists have planned the basics of a 440-day mission by six people which would break a huge barrier in space exploration.

Preliminary talks have been held with possible international partners for the plan which Russia said would cost around $20bn and for which it could contribute 30%.

Vitaly Semyonov, head of the Mars project at the Keldysh Research Centre, said: "It must be an international project.

Anatoly Grigoryev, director of the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems
Anatoly Grigoryev is part of the team that would plan the 15-month trip
"No one country could cope alone with this task."

The outline of the plan calls for two spaceships - one manned with six crew members and one for cargo.

Anatoly Grigoryev, director of the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems which works with all of Russia's cosmonauts, said three members of the team would descend to Mars, while the other three would remain in orbit.

'Encouraging signs'

Russian space officials said they were receiving encouraging signs of interest from Nasa and European counterparts.


We are still very far away

Alain Fournier-Sicre, European Space Agency
Nasa spokeswoman Delores Beasley said the Russians had not yet submitted a formal plan which would be necessary before decisions were taken.

Alain Fournier-Sicre, head of the European Space Agency's permanent mission in Russia, said he had discussed the project with Russian officials.

"We are still very far away," he said. "But this kind of programme is a long-term initiative for every space agency in the world."

Nasa told BBC News Online last month that the administration was doing what it needed to send humans to Mars at some point.

The planet Mars
The planet Mars: A goal for Russian scientists over four decades
Nasa's Mars Odyssey craft entered orbit around the planet earlier this year and began mapping the mineral and chemical make-up of the surface.

The Odyssey's discovery of water on Mars also heightened interest and added possibilities for manned missions to Mars.

Russian scientists have long dreamed of landing humans on Mars, but even in the heyday of the Soviet space programme its attempts to reach the Red Planet were so marked by failure that people began talking of a "Mars curse".

More recently, Russia tried to launch a $300m spacecraft to Mars in 1996, hoping to show they were still a force in the space discovery despite the Soviet break-up.

But the craft suffered an engine failure after launch and crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

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News Online Science Editor, David Whitehouse
"Russia is keen but lacks the money"

Mars Odyssey

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Mission to Mars
The BBC's science correspondent
See also:

05 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
29 May 02 | Science/Nature
28 May 02 | Science/Nature
04 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
22 May 02 | Science/Nature
06 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
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