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    (RUSSIAN PRIVATE BUSINESS TO BANKROLL MISSION TO MARS?(

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    MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - On Friday a Russian private company presented the conceptual design of a six-member expedition's flight and landing on Mars in 2009.

    The spaceship is going to have videos to transmit to earth details of the on-board life in real time mode.

    This was said at a Moscow news conference by a participant in the project, Georgy Uspensky, section chief at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (TsNIIMASh).

    "For the first time, the private sector, having nothing to do with space research, is going to invest in such a grand project as the flight to Mars," he noted.

    "As specialists we can understand that the project cannot be accomplished in a matter of five years. A working design for a mission to take place in 2013-2014 is possible," Uspensky added.

    Oleg Alexandrov of the private company said that it is ready to undertake the financing of the project, distinguished by a smaller cost and taking less time.

    In Alexandrov's words, the cost of sending a Russian expedition to Mars will be $4-5 billion, which is much less than of the other Russian proposals, estimated at $14 billion to $30 billion. The expenses can be cut, he is sure, through the use of existing Russian space rocketry products.

    Uspensky said, the project envisages creating two large manned modules, to which an inflatable module with a greenhouse and a closed life-support system will be attached.

    The expert said that the interplanetary ship is going to be assembled in orbit. "Its total weight will be about 300 tons. Fifteen Proton launches will be needed to orbit its components," he added.

    Under the project, a large Mars rover, one alighting gear weighing 10 tons, will be landed on the red planet. In one month the vehicle will travel about 1,000 kilometers and drill for rock samples to a depth of 150 meters.

    Developers of the project would like other countries to join in. "We are talking this over with the European Space Agency," Uspensky said.

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