Home>News Center>World

Russia says private Mars mission 'nonsense'
Updated: 2004-04-13 09:05

A group of Russian space experts on Friday announced an ambitious plan to send a six-man crew to Mars within a decade, a project it said would cost between $3 and $5 billion. Russian space officials dismissed the project as nonsense.

Georgy Uspensky, right, an official at the Central Research Institute for Machine-Building, and Oleg Alexandrov, director of Aerospace Systems, explain their vision for Mars at a news conference.  [AP]
A researcher at the Central Research Institute for Machine-Building, Russia's premier authority on space equipment design, said it would carry out the project with funding promised by Aerospace Systems, a little-known private Russian company that says it draws no resources from the state budget.

The program envisions six people traveling to Mars and exploring it for several months before returning to Earth. The expedition is designed to last three years in all, and would depend on a fully equipped spacecraft containing its own garden, medical facilities and other amenities.

Georgy Uspensky, a department head at the Institute, said that the comparatively small budget for the program reflected plans to use already developed spacecraft.

"This will be our first flight ... we will fly on what we have," Uspensky said, although he did not name a specific model of spacecraft. By contrast, U.S. President George W. Bush's call for restoring manned flights to the Moon is estimated at costing US$12 billion over the next five years.

Oleg Alexandrov, director of Aerospace Systems, said that the flight was scheduled for 2009, but Uspensky predicted it would happen around 2011-13. Earlier this year, Bush proposed a manned mission to visit the planet but did not set a timeline for such a trip, which American scientists believe would probably remain decades away.

Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency, said he had never heard of the project and that it "was absolutely impossible" to implement with such a meager budget and in such a short time period.

"Both U.S. and Russian experts have estimated that the Mars project costs around a trillion dollars. How can they launch this with so little money?" Gorbunov said.

Alexandrov didn't explain how his firm would raise the funds, but said one of the reasons he thought such a mission would be profitable was it could involve a "reality" television show.

The Soviet Union put the first man and the first satellite in space and, in 1988, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was the first to propose a joint U.S.-Russian manned mission to Mars. But Washington's reaction was lukewarm, and the Soviet Union collapsed just three years later, leaving Russia's space program in shambles.

Its space industries have struggled ever since. The single interplanetary robotic mission that Russia managed to mount since the Soviet collapse failed miserably in 1996. Despite the money crunch, designers have continued drafting projects of new spaceships.

"There are two goals here: to be the first ones and to show the rest of the world that this is possible. We'll be the first ones to do this and this will boost Russia's national prestige," said Viktor Ivanov, another researcher from the institute.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Seven Chinese kidnapped in Iraq are freed



New policy eases one-child restrictions



Expert: China's economy to grow by 9%



Beijing reaffirms stand against independence



One woman's torturous passage to America



Beijing court deals with cyberspace crimes


  11 Russians seized, Chinese freed
  Shiite cleric pulls back Iraqi militias
  Stampede for sarees kills at least 21 Indian women
  Russia says private Mars mission 'nonsense'
  Booming business is bad for health
  Israeli sources say Sharon's plans to get US nod
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Russian scientists plan to send men to Mars
NASA: Salty sea covered part of Mars
NASA: Mars had enough water for life
  News Talk  
  3 Japanese taken hostage in Iraq