Russia and Europe plan a manned mission to Mars
Europe will carry out the first manned mission to Mars together with Russia. Head of the European Space Agency Jean-Jacques Dordain stated this when he visited the International Aviation and Space Salon, MAKS-2011, now under way in Zhukovsky near Moscow. He gave no timeframe, but head of the Russian Space Agency Vladimir Popovkin welcomed his European counterpart’s idea concerning the coordination of the future project.
The dream of human beings going to Mars has a long history, and at present, mankind is very close to implement such a project. Some time ago, an interest in the planet was linked to the possibility of encountering with humanoids. Later, it became clear that the probability of such a meeting is almost zero, although some kind of life could be found there. The significance of a manned mission to Mars is beyond the search for extraterrestrial life. According to scientists, Mars is the only promising planet in the Solar System from the standpoint of colonization. Perhaps, this may be the reason why the U.S. has declared a manned mission to Mars a national programme.
However, over 50-year experience in space exploration shows that coordinated efforts in this area provide better results than competition. At the same time, it’s no easy task to achieve mutual understanding in all areas, says analyst of the Moscow-based journal “Novosti Kosmonavtike” or “News of Cosmonautics” Igor Lisov:
“Space exploration history teaches us that even assurance given by the U.S. President is insufficient to implement a space programme linked to complicated targets. For example, only one out of the three attempts to fly to the moon was realized. Similarly, the decision of the space agencies and their agreement on a manned mission could not be implemented without the support of the leaders of the countries, in this case, Russia and the European states. Organization of such a mission is the government’s task. In the future, it will be intergovernmental work,” says Igor Lisov.
In fact, there is an intergovernmental decision to this end. In 2006, the member states of the European Space Agency, adopted a large-scale project to launch the “EkzoMars” rover in which Russia will be directly involved. The rover will be launched by the Russian-built Proton rocket in 2013 and it will be partially supplied with Russian equipment. However, the launch of a manned mission to Mars depends on the leaders of Russia and the member states of the ESA, says Igor Lisov.
“If they decide to implement an emergency programme, the mission may be carried out in ten years. If it is an ordinary one, then it will take 20 years. This is a long period of time,” Igor Lisov said.
Meanwhile, Russia is coordinating closely with the European Space agency in carrying out the Mars-500 experiment. This is the third, 520-day stage of the experiment. The experiment simulates a manned flight to Mars at a facility located in Moscow. During the ongoing experiment the crew stepped on to the simulated Mars surface several times.