Thursday, March 29, 2007

Red Star for Red Planet

China is confirmed to supply a micro-satellite for a planned Russian mission to Mars in 2009. The strange sounding Phobos-Grunt mission (the Grunt means soil as the mission is also intended to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos) is the first Russian mission to Mars since they lost a probe in 1996 to a booster failure. The China-Russia deal was actually first reported last year, but the deal was only formally inked during Chinese President Hu Jintao's current visit to Moscow. If all goes according to plan, after entering Mars' orbit, the Chinese micro-satellite will be detached from the Russian spacecraft, and probe the Martian space environment. The "Phobos Explorer" spacecraft, will also carry some equipment developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic.