Russia, China to cooperate in moon, Mars missions

Russia plans to cooperate with China in robotic missions to the moon and Mars and other space projects, officials said Thursday. "We have switched from cooperating on technological elements and devices to developing big scientific projects in space research," Yuri Nosenko, a deputy head of Russia's Federal Space Agency, told reporters in a televised hookup from Beijing, where he and other officials were attending a Russian national exhibition. He said the space-related contracts Russian companies had signed with China were worth tens of millions of dollars. Nosenko said that Russia had agreed to help China in its lunar research program and China would also take part in Russia's project of sending an unmanned probe to Mars' moon, Phobos, to take soil samples and deliver them back to Earth. China will build a mini-satellite that would be carried by the Russian probe and released in the vicinity of Mars to conduct research, said Georgy Polishchuk, the head of the NPO Lavochkin company, which is working on the mission. It is set to launch in 2009. Polishchuk said that China also had expressed interest in joining a later robotic mission expected to land on Mars.