Russia plans return to Mars, Moon despite money woes

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MOSCOW: Russia’s planetary exploration has stalled for the past three decades — until now. Under an ambitious plan with the European Space Agency (ESA), scientists have new hope of again sending missions to the Moon and to Mars. Next month, a Russian Proton rocket is scheduled to launch the first of two missions under ExoMars, a joint venture with the ESA, to snoop out possible life, past or present, to the red planet. The ambitious plan, however, has caused jitters among some observers and is dismissed as a pipe dream by others. With the economic crisis, the Russian government is likewise pressed to make budget cuts and space exploration is far from one of its priorities. Beyond the money issues, skeptics note that Russia has not carried out a Mars landing since the 1970s and a failure could destroy ESA’s rover.

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