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New contact with Fobos-Grunt successful

November 24, 2011, 3:03 UTC+3

Roscosmos and ESA specialists are now preparing programmes for further work with the interplanetary probe

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PARIS, November 24 (Itar-Tass) —— A new contact with the Fobos-Grunt mission has proved successful, the Lavochkin Research and Production Association said.

The previous contact was made on the night to Wednesday, November 23, from Australia.

“Roscosmos and ESA specialists are now preparing programmes for further work with the interplanetary probe,” a Lavochkin Association official said.

Fobos-Grunt, which means “Phobos-Soil”, is a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Launched on November 9, 2011 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, aboard a Zenit-2SB carrier rocket, it is in a low Earth orbit awaiting resolution of technical problems that have prevented it from continuing its mission.

Funded by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and developed by the Lavochkin Association and the Russian Space Research Institute, Fobos-Grunt is the first Russian-led interplanetary mission since the abortive Mars 96. The spacecraft is also carrying the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the tiny Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment funded by the Planetary Society.

The spacecraft is scheduled to reach Mars' orbit in September 2012 and land on Phobos in February 2013. The return vehicle, carrying up to 200 grams of soil from Phobos, would be expected back on Earth in August 2014.

If it succeeds in achieving these aims, Fobos-Grunt will become the first spacecraft to return a macroscopic extraterrestrial sample from a planetary body since Luna 24 in 1976, and the first successful Russian interplanetary mission since 1986.

The Lavochkin Association is a Russian aerospace company that develops and manufactures spacecraft such as the Fregat and Ikar rocket upper stages, satellites and interplanetary probes. It is a contractor for a number of military programmes. The company's most notable project at the moment is the Fobos-Grunt probe.

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