Sunday, Jul 07, 2002
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Russia's space programme hopes to work closely with the American agency NASA and the European Space Agency to build two spaceships that would be capable of transporting the crew to Mars, supporting them on the planet for up to two months and then safely bringing them home, said Nikolai Anfimov, head of the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building.
The roughly 440-day trip which would mark a milestone in space travel and international space cooperation is expected to cost about $20 billion, with Russia suggesting it would contribute 30 per cent.
``It must be an international project,'' said Vitaly Semyonov, head of the Mars project at the M.V. Keldysha Space Research Centre. ``No one country could cope alone with this task.''
Russian space officials said they are receiving encouraging signs of interest from NASA and European counterparts.
But a NASA spokeswoman, Delores Beasley, said the Russians haven't submitted any formal plan to the agency and that until NASA sees something official from Russia, it will not comment on the proposal. Because of demands from the U.S. Congress to scale back costs, human travel to Mars has not been on the space agency's radar recently. ``We are still very far away,'' conceded Alain Fournier-Sicre, head of the European Space Agency's permanent mission in Russia. ``But this kind of programme is a long-term initiative for every space agency in the world''.
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