Russian scientists unveil new technologies to be used during missions to Moon and Mars

Interplanetary exploration is one of the top priorities of the current Federal Space Program. Karat is a microplatform designed by Lavochkin Research and Production Association. The microplatform should become one of the key technologies to be used in Russian space exploration projects. The first platform-based probe is expected to be deployed into orbit next year. The technology is also going to be used in a new lunar rover, which is currently in the works at the association. The exploration spacecraft will be probably part of the Moon Globe Program in 2012.

The Phobos Ground Program provided a number of design solutions to the new exploration spacecraft and the above platforms. The landing of an autonomous laboratory on one of the Martian satellites is one of the objectives of the program slated to commence in 2009. Meanwhile, some changes with regard to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program have been announced. Phoenix, a laboratory similar to that of the Phobos Ground Program, will reportedly use a different location while landing on the Red Planet.

Designers at Lavochkin Research and Production Association unveiled some information on the development of the new rover last week. The exploration spacecraft exceeds similar equipment in terms of many design characteristics. The rover is a small-sized and mobile explorer capable of conducting surface studies of the Moon for a year. It is designed to return images and collect soil samples. Subsequently, soil samples will be returned to Earth by a cargo rocket.

The new rover mission may be integrated into the Moon Globe Program and get off the ground as early as 2012. The rover could be in use even after the accomplishment of its principal objectives should it become a full-fledged component of the above program. Being equipped with a radio beacon, the rover will help facilitate navigation of heavy landers to be used for transporting modules of an automatic lunar base.

Nanotechnologies are to be the cornerstone of new interplanetary studies. Designers at Lavochkin Research and Production Association are especially proud of developing the Karat microplatforms. Five projects based on the microplatform technology have been always included in the Federal Space Program. The first probe using the technology should be launched next year. The probe is dubbed Karat Zond. It is designed to conduct surface and subsurface studies of Earth by means of a multipurpose radar complex.

A large number of design features used in both the Karat and Moon Globe Program spacecraft were borrowed from technologies used on the spacecraft of the Phobos Ground Program. Under the program, an interplanetary space station will be bound for Mars to study one of its moons. The mission is scheduled to commence in 2009. Collecting soil samples and gathering data on interplanetary medium will be the main objectives of the mission, which will take at least three years to complete. The complex will be launched aboard a Soyuz-2 rocket. Two previous attempts to study Phobos in 1988 ended in failure.

Some changes in NASA’s Mars Scout Mission were recently announced. Images returned by Mars orbiter show that the planned landing site of Phoenix exploration spacecraft is full of large rocks. In light of the above, it was decided to find an alternative landing site. The spacecraft is most likely to land in an area referred to as the “Green Valley.”

Izvestia Nauki

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov