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Scientists suggest testing Russia’s Martian moon probe on Apophis asteroid first

A similar mission was suggested before the failed Phobos-Grunt mission

MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. A group of scientists from the Lavochkin Research and Production Association suggest testing Russia’s automated interplanetary system (AMS) on the Apophis asteroid first before sending it on a sample-return mission to Phobos, a Martian moon.

The scientists say that the mission, codenamed Bumerang, will not only give a chance to practice the basic flight control operations, but will also yield valuable scientific information.

"The AMS-A demonstration flight may be performed under the scheme of visiting a small celestial body in far space (asteroid). This will allow certifying the basic AMS flight control operations <…> under less critical circumstances," a team of scientists said in an article published by the Lavochkin Research and Production Association’s official magazine.

The authors of the article also suggest delivering a small satellite to the asteroid, which would keep orbiting it for a period of up to 10 years and provide measurements of its trajectory.

A similar mission was suggested before the failed Phobos-Grunt mission. However, no test flight of the spacecraft was carried out.

The Phobos-Grunt mission using the AMS spacecraft was launched on November 9, 2011. The system was successfully delivered to the low Earth orbit but remained stranded there, because rocket burns intended to set the craft on a course for Mars failed.

Later, Russia announced plans to repeat the mission during the Bumerang/Expedition-M project. The project aims to establish an interplanetary station to survey Mars and its satellites and deliver Phobos soil samples to the Earth. The spacecraft can be launched in 2024.