Russia Launches Mission to Mars Moon; Probe to Send Back Dust
Phobos-Grunt spacecraft is first Russian Mars shot since 1996.
Funded by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Phobos-Grunt mission successfully lifted off on a Zenit-2SB booster rocket at 3:16 p.m. ET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The craft is slated to reach Mars in the fall of 2012.
(Also see "Next Mars Rover Landing Site Named: Gale Crater.")
Phobos-Grunt will then land on the 13.8-mile-wide (22.2-kilometer-wide) moon Phobos in early 2013. (See Phobos pictures.)
The craft will scoop up half a pound (0.2 kilogram) of the small moon's surface material—grunt is the Russian word for "soil"—for return to Earth. The main body of the lander will remain behind to conduct further research.
"We want to study the characteristics of the Martian satellites and understand their evolution," said Alexander Zakharov,