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The Mars Programme

In 1962 the first automatic station - the USSR's Mars-1 - was launched. It was followed by more than a dozen Soviet and US space vehicles. Then came a lengthy interval starting in 1975. Now the time has come for mankind to carry out detailed studies of Mars which is known to be a planet in many respects similar to the Earth. It is necessary that man should understand the origin and development of the Solar System in order to understand the history of our own planet and the reasons of the appearance of life on it.

New knowledge about Mars might help us to explain the multitude of natural phenomena occuring on earth and enable us to predict these phenomena, as well as control them. This would help mankind begin exploring the Solar System's resources in the not so distant future.

The importance of Mars studies is acknowledged by all. Thus the working programmes of the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) envisage flights to Mars in the 1990s. The most representative community of space research — the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), now incorporating some eighty space agencies, institutes and industrial enterprises in 36 countries — considers the preparation of manned and unmanned expeditions to Mars to be one of its main priorities.

Russia has proposed that a broad international programme of detailed study of Mars and its natural satellites should be carried out. Scientists and space experts suggested that automatic stations for Mars' expeditions should be designed and produced by Russia, and the scientific instruments for them should be jointly prepared by ten countries: six East and four West European. It was reported that the programme would enable us to deliver to Mars the automatic station for global studies of the planet from the orbits of its artificial satellites, determine the most promising areas for detailed investigations and study the planet's atmosphere by landing special vehicles as well as balloons.

A new generation of the Phobos space probes has been developed for this purpose in Russia. It should be noted that these probes are sophisticated programmed space robots. They are believed to be the basic means for the expedition to Phobos, Mars satellite, and hence for carrying out the Mars programme in 1998 and 1999. It is planned to launch six unmanned spacecrafts — two each in 1992, 1994, and 1996. The Mars Sample Return Mission1, now being planned for the late 1990s2 should be the most important part in the space programme for the period ending in 2000. The spacecraft to be launched to Mars is to make a soft landing on the planet and send a self-propelled vehicle, so-called rover3, to gather soil samples and specimens of Mars rock4. It is to travel several hundred kilometers on Mars' surface, encountering storms, frosts and heat. Then about 2 lbs of materials would be returned to earth for detailed analysis. The U.S. is supposed to supply the rover plus advanced electronics to guide this rover from orbiting spacecraft.