Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Russia and China plan joint Mars Mission

New details have emerged of a joint Russian/Chinese mission to Mars, following the signing of a co-operative agreement in March 2007. Yinghuo-1 and the Russian Phobos-Grunt probe will be dispatched together on board a Russian Zenit rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, with an October 2009 launch date penciled in. On Arrival after an 11-month voyage, Yinghuo-1 will go into orbit, where it will study the magnetic field, the interaction between ionospheres, escape particles, and solar wind. It also carries cameras, which will image the surface and the moons of Mars. The Chinese probe will draw power during it's flight to Mars from the Russian vehicle, but Chinese scientists are still apparently working to solve potential power problems when their 110 kilogram solar powered probe detaches and goes into orbit, where it will encounter frequent periods when it will be in shadow. Meanwhile Phobos-Grunt will attempt a highly ambitious touchdown on the moon Phobos, where it will collect samples for return to earth. The main body of the lander will continue operating on Phobos for up to a year.