Russia to Repeat Phobos-Grunt Mission in 2020-2021
Lev Zelenyi, Director of Russia's Institute for Space Science, said today that Russia will fly a replacement Phobos-Grunt mission in 2020-2021.
As reported by Itar-Tass, Zelenyi spoke at the "Day of Space Science" today, the 55th anniversary of the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, by the Soviet Union. He reportedly said that Russia first needs to understand what went wrong with Phobos-Grunt last year and to practice landing methods, which Russia will accomplish by cooperating with the European Space Agency on the 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions. ExoMars is designed to land probes on Mars itself, however, while Phobos-Grunt was designed to return a sample of the Martian moon, Phobos, to Earth, a quite different endeavor.
Spacecraft can be launched from Earth to Mars every 26 months when the planets are correctly aligned in their orbits, but some of those launch windows are better than others in terms of the energy required to get there. The 2018 launch window is one of the best, 2020 is not too bad, but 2022 and beyond are increasingly poor until the following decade. Zelenyi's "2020-2021" reference presumably means launch in 2020 and arrival at Phobos in 2021.
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