Saturday, August 19, 2006
In an anonymous compound next to a suburban Moscow shopping centre a retired Russian army general is planning his next galactic conquest.
Georgy Polishchuk, head of the Lavochkin Association, is preparing an unmanned mission to a moon of Mars (Phobos) that will search for signs of life on the red planet and try to unlock the universe's secrets.
"We have to find life and whether it can be sustained," Polishchuk said, his eyes glinting as his pen drew out the planned route during an interview this month at the installation.
The theory that there may be life on Mars, bolstered by signs that there has been or still is water on the planet, has fascinated scientists and space enthusiasts around the world for more than a century.
The three-year mission is the cornerstone of Russia's bid to reclaim a leading role in robotic planetary exploration after the long lull that followed the glory days of Soviet space exploration.
More info on the Lavochkin Association:
The Lavochkin Association is one of the leading Russian enterprises in the development and practical use of unmanned means of exploration of celestial bodies and space. Spacecraft developed by the Lavochkin Association are proven pioneers in their field. Lavochkin spacecraft were the first to execute soft landings on the Moon, Mars and Venus and the first to conduct automated lunar soil sampling and sample delivery to Earth.