The ideas in the design of the Russian Mars-96 space vehicle, lost in 1996 on its way to orbit, were used in the European Mars-Express project, said Vasily Moroz, department chief at the Space Research Institute and one of the Mars-96 designers, at a press conference in Moscow on Monday.
Mars-Express could have become a joint project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia's Rosaviakosmos aerospace agency, but five years ago, when the work on the project began, the leadership of the Russian agency preferred to give the ESA an opportunity to launch its station with the help of the Russian rocket on a commercial basis," he said.
Rosaviakosmos, Moroz recalled, confined itself to supporting the participation of Russian scientists in the scientific experiments of the mission. Experts from the Space Research Institute developed and built a number of units for the OMEGA, PFS and SPICAM spectrometers installed on the Mars-Express orbiter. At present Russian and European scientists are receiving valuable information and panoramic pictures of the Mars surface from the station in real time.
"Russian scientists are members enjoying full rights at the international research groups in all experiments of the Mars-Express mission, because these groups were formed already during the work on the Mars-96 project," Moroz stressed.
He pointed out also that Mars exploration plays a special role in the study of the Solar System. It is known that during the period of the red planet's evolution Mars and its atmosphere have undergone cardinal changes. Moroz considers that "the study of these changes and their causes are of immense importance for understanding the past and future of the Earth."
He believes Mars will be the first planet to be visited by cosmonauts. But before that the planet should be thoroughly explored with the help of automatic devices, he said.