The US has been touting the idea of sending people to Mars for so long that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, decided to raise the stakes and throw Russia’s hat into the space race. Putin announced that Russia will launch a mission to the Red Planet in 2019, and if successful, it would beat NASA’s planned exploration of Mars by a full year.
“We are planning unmanned and later manned launches,” said Putin. “The closest mission is very soon, we are planning to launch a mission to Mars in 2019,”
The Russian president revealed his country’s plans in a new documentary which was widely shared on social media. In addition to the Mars mission, Putin also revealed that they will launch a mission to the moon.
According to a Russian news outlet, the Mars spacecraft will not be manned. For the lunar mission, Putin said that the country will focus on the moon’s poles because water may be there.
Putin did not specify when it 2019 the Mars mission would occur. As for NASA, the space agency is expected to launch its mission to Mars around July and August 2020 when the positions between Earth and Mars are best placed for a landing.
Putin, who is expected to be re-elected as president in the country’s election on Sunday, did not specify the goal of the Mars mission. The last known Mars mission that Russia was involved in would happen in 2020, with its participation in the ExoMars rover. This project is developed in partnership between Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency. The mission of the ExoMars rover is to search for microscopic life, be it from the Red Planet’s past or present.
Among the countries who are competing in the space race are India and China. India is expected to launch its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 later this year, and it would include a rover. China is also poised to launch its Chang’e-4 mission in 2018 and would explore the far side of the moon.
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