ZHUKOVSKY, Moscow region, August 19 (Itar-Tass) —— Mars Express of the European Space Agency (ESA) will help find a place for landing of the Russian Phobos Grunt interplanetary station on the Martian moon, the Mars Express project head told Itar-Tass.
He said Mars Express had taken pictures of Phobos for selecting the optimal landing spot.
The ESA provide Russia with updated information about the position of Phobos and changes in its gravity field.
The period of the Mars Express project may be extended until 2014, the researcher said. The station was launched in 2003 and initially supposed to end in 2005. The project period has been extended several times.
Ground stations of the ESA will also give support to Russia’s Phobos Grunt mission, another ESA representative said at the MAKS 2011 international aerospace show in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Tuesday.
The launch of Russia’s Phobos Grunt interplanetary automatic research station to the Martian moon of Phobos is planned for November 3-5, 2011, Lavochkin Research and Production Center head Viktor Khartov said in late July.
He said that Lavochin had taken part in lunar and Martian missions. “The new project is particularly valuable because it is the last chance for switching to new generations. The Phobos Grunt mission will begin on November 3-5. We are working on the delivery of the probe to the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. We will regain the Russian ability to send a landing module to the Moon in 2014. Missions to the lunar poles will come next. These are very interesting missions because they may find water,” he said.
The Phobos Grunt launch has been delayed repeatedly since 2009. Russia and Ukraine agreed in late October 2010 that the probe would be operated from the European center.
The probe will research the Martian moon of Phobos and bring Phobos soil samples to the Earth.
Bacteria, fungi, maxillopoda, fish and chironomids will be the first inhabitants of the Earth to visit the Martian moon of Phobos. There will be also seeds in the bio-container of the Phobos Grunt research vehicle, head of the microbiology laboratory of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medical and Biological Problems Natalia Novikova told Itar-Tass earlier.
“Apart from seeds, we plan to send four species of bacteria, fungi, maxillopoda, Nothobranchius guentheri and African chironomids on a space mission onboard Phobos Grunt in the second stage of the Biorisk experiment,” Novikova said.
The Phobos Grunt passengers will help scientists to resolve the problem of planetary quarantine and protection in future manned interplanetary flights, Novikova said.
“It is no less important to understand whether it is possible to bring to the Earth microorganisms from other planets or Earth microorganisms that have been to space,” the research said.
Once the vehicle reaches Mars, it will spend several months in orbit to choose the best place for landing on Phobos. A landing capsule will separate and reach the moon surface. It will collect relic substance, which, in the opinion of scientists, might have formed planets of the solar system. The samples will be taken to the Earth.
An automatic station will stay on Phobos to continue the study and to monitor the local climate and circumplanetary space. The station will test prospective technologies of Martian flights.
Also, Phobos Grunt will bring a Chinese micro-satellite to the Martian orbit and joint experiments will be held.
This is provided by an agreement between the Federal Space Agency and the China National Space Administration.
The Chinese satellite Yinghuo-1 (or Firefly Light-1) is planned to be placed on Martian orbit within the framework of the joint Russian-Chinese Mars exploration agreement signed in 2007.
Yinghuo-1 is the first Chinese deep space research probe. Its start will mark a new stage in China’s space exploration. The spacecraft’s weight is 115 kilograms, the estimated service life – 2 years. It is to enter the near-Mars orbit in some 10 months after the start from Earth. The Yinghuo-1 research program includes collection of data on the planet’ s environment, including studying the mechanism of water evaporation, which could help scientists in the future to unravel the mystery of disappearance on Mars in the past of this indispensable source of life and its development.
In all, Phobos Grunt will be carrying over 20 research instruments.