00:54 GMT +3 hours26 November 2014
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Roscosmos, ESA Agree Joint Mars Research

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Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Friday it agreed Russia’s participation in a Mars research project with the European Space Agency (ESA), a spokeswoman for the Roscosmos chief said on Friday.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Friday it agreed Russia’s participation in a Mars research project with the European Space Agency (ESA), a spokeswoman for the Roscosmos chief said on Friday.

Roscosmos and ESA chiefs Vladimir Popovkin and Jean-Jacques Dordain met in Moscow on Friday.

"The sides consider this project feasible and promising,” Popovkin’s spokeswoman Anna Vedishcheva said. “The sides are to sign the deal by year-end.”

A Russian space industry source earlier said that the final agreement on Russia’s participation in ExoMars is expected to be signed in November “and by this date the sides should confirm their financing.”

The ExoMars program to send an orbiter to Mars in 2016 and a robot rover two years later was run jointly by NASA and ESA. NASA later said it would cut its participation in the project and will not provide its Atlas carrier for the launch.

Russian scientists and space officials repeatedly hinted at their intention to join the project, offering to provide Proton carrier rockets for the launches in exchange for full membership.

Russian space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said that Russia’s financing of ExoMars could be partially covered by insurance payments of 1.2 billion rubles (about $40.7 million) for the lost Phobos-Grunt sample probe to Martian moon Phobos.

Russia’s participation in the project was also approved on Friday by the space council of the Russian Academy of Sciences.