MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russia will take a second crack at bringing back dust samples from Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, after an attempt in 2011 ended in the spacecraft crashing back to Earth, a top scientist said Tuesday.
Russia’s next bid to recover material from Mars’ largest moon will take place between 2020 and 2022, Lev Zelyony, the director of the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference.
He said the project, nicknamed “Boomerang,” is “still important,” and claimed the Phobos samples could lead to new discoveries about the birth of the solar system.
The moon, whose name is Greek for “fear,” is thought to be a captured asteroid and may contain material from the early period of the solar system’s creation, though scientists still unsure about its origin.
Russia tried to obtain samples from the Mars moon in its 5-billion-ruble ($165 million, at the then-exchange rate) Phobos-Grunt mission in November 2011, but a rocket failure left the spacecraft stranded in Earth’s orbit, and it fell back to Earth two months later.
Zelyony also discussed a number of Russia’s other upcoming space projects at the conference, including two unmanned Moon landings in 2015 and 2018, plans for a probe to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede starting in 2014, and a mission to recover soil samples from Mars after 2024.