BAIKONUR, November 9 (Itar-Tass) — The automatic interplanetary station (AIS) Phobos-Grunt (soil) has successfully separated from the carrier rocket Zenit (zenith)-2SB that blasted off from Baikonur cosmodrome at 00:16 , Moscow time, on Wednesday.
A space launch center official has told Itar-Tass, "At 00:27, AIS successfully separated from the Zenit and is currently on a flight in a low-earth orbit".
Within the next five hours, the space probe will transfer to a path of flight to Mars resultant of two ignitions of the sustainer rocket engine (SRE). "This will happen at 05:20, Moscow time," a Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) official pointed out. A third ignition of SRE will be performed on a departure flight path.
The Roscosmos official said, "The principal purpose of the mission, which is being performed for the first time (with landing) and which will last almost three years, will be to bring samples of soil from martian satellite Phobos. The main scientific task of the project is to study a broadspectrum of problems connected with the origin of the Solar system and the universe as a whole".
Lev Zelyony, director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that apart from a package of scientific instrumentation, the probe carries terrestrial microbes.
"A recoverable module has available a conainer with colonies ofmicrobes. The ability of the microorganisms to endure interplanetary flight conditions will be studied during the flight to Mars and back," the Institute director said. Several international scientific groups have been alreadyformed to analyze data to be obtained during the space expedition.
The overall duration of the mission to martian satellite is approximately 34 months and its cost is about 5,000 million roubles.