MOSCOW — China will participate in a Russian-led mission to retrieve samples from the surface of Mars’ moon Phobos, a Russian space industry official said Aug. 25.
“Yes, it is the case,” the official said, confirming Chinese news reports that China will contribute to the mission. He did not elaborate.
China will provide the survey equipment for the mission, accordin g to Ye Peijian, a senior scientist at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology. Peijian made the statement at meeting in Beijing Aug. 23, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The interplanetary unmanned probe for the mission is being built at the Lavochkin Scientific Production Association in Khimki, Russia. The launch of the 8,120-kilogram probe is planned for 2009, according to this company’s official Web site.
The mission will last three years and culminate in delivery of rocks and other samples from the surface of Phobos to Earth. The probe also would map the surface of Phobos , and measure its mass and dimensions. Other aspects of the mission would be an analysis of the plasma and dust around Phobos, according to the official description of the project on Lavochkin’s Web site.
“The launch of [Phobos] -Grunt is the first stage of our plan. The second stage would be on Mars and the third one would be practical utilization of the surface of this planet,” Georgy Polishchuk, director general and general designer of Lavochkin was quoted in July 9 interview posted on thecompany Web site.
The mission would be Russia’s third attempt to study Ph obos. The previous two probes, Phobos-1 and Phobos-2, were lost in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Lavochkin’s Mars 2006 mission also failed when the launch carrying the probe crashed in November 1996.
Calls to the office of Lavochkin director Polishchuk and Federal Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin went unanswered Aug. 25.