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$5 billion Mars mission of Russian oligarchs

A privately owned Russian company presented a draft of a Mars mission on Friday. The project is designed for a team of six astronauts and is scheduled for 2009. The spaceship is going to be equipped with video cameras which will broadcast everything live.

The information has been reported by one of the members of the project, Director of Department of Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering, Georgy Uspensky at a press-conference in Moscow.

“For the first time ever, a private sector that has nothing to do with space, agreed to invest in such major project as a trip to Mars,” commented he.

“Obviously, as specialists, we realize that it is practically impossible to launch the spaceship in 5 years. However, we could design a working prototype to be launched perhaps by 2013-2014,” added Uspensky.

Chairman of the privately owned company Oleg Alexandrov stated that the company is willing to finance the project. According to Alexandrov, total cost of the expedition will be about $4-5 billion USD. This in fact, is significantly lower than previous estimates ranging between $14 and $30 billion USD. Alexandrov considers that all expenses can be significantly reduced by using already existing domestic products of space industry.

However, he did not provide a clear answer as to what exact reserve modules will be used in construction of the spaceship. According to Uspensky, the project entails creation of two spacious inhabited modules, an attached inflated module with a space greenhouse and a closed system, of life-support.

“We want to remain in space for three years; and even though this could be rather tough psychologically, with two spacious living modules and a greenhouse, this could become reality,” added he.

According to the experts, this interplanetary spaceship is planned to be build right in orbit. “The spaceship will weight nearly 300 tons. Approximately 15 rocket-carriers “Proton” will be needed to launch the needed components to space,” mentioned Uspensky. According to him, astronauts will be “picked up behind the Moon, at approximately 500 km.”

According to the project, this gigantic spaceship will land on the “red planet”. The spaceship's undercarriage weighs 9 tons. According to the initial plan, the machine will have to travel nearly kilometers in one month and take rock samples from 150 m depth.

Project developers hope that other countries will join the project in a not so distant future. “Nowadays, we are having talks with European Space Agency,” stated Uspensky.

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