Russian plan for manned flight to Mars unveiled

The Russian company Aviakosmicheskiye Sistemi has worked out a plan for a manned expedition to Mars that could be carried out in the period 2009-2114. Oleg Aleksandrov, the firm's general director, discussed the matter at a press conference here Friday. He said the plan had been reviewed and approved by the Central Machine-Building Research Institute.

Also at the press conference, Georgy Uspensky, who heads a department at the institute, said the principal distinguishing feature of the new plan is its reliance on technology and major systems already developed by Russia. He said the plan calls for the use of ecologically clean rockets capable of lifting as much as 20 tonnes. Rockets of the Proton or Arian types may be used. The plan calls for putting in space, using Rokot missiles, two small orbiting satellites and construction there of a giant space module of a new type. This interplanetary vessel would be built in orbit. It would weigh about 300 tonnes.

The Mars flight could involve up to six cosmonauts. A large vehicle designed for the Mars surface would be landed on the planet. The cost of the plan is estimated at about USD 5 billion, and the funds would be expected to come from private sources. The developers hope to bring in to the project the Lavochkin research organization, the production facilities of Kvant and Fakel as well as other companies and design bureaus.

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