Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Space Science

Russia To Study Martian Moons Once Again 119

Posted by timothy
from the phobos-grunties dept.
Robbie writes "The Russian space program once faced bleak prospects, receiving meager government funding. Meanwhile, the United States and the ESA continued to send automatic probes to the Red Planet. NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers are now crawling on the planet's surface, while their Russian prototypes never lifted off and are now on display at the Space Research Institute's museum. However, the situation seems to be improving today. Under a stage-by-stage national program for studying Mars, the Phobos-Grunt automatic probe will be launched in October 2009. This cutting-edge modular spacecraft costs just 1.5 billion rubles ($64.4 million)."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Russia To Study Martian Moons Once Again

Comments Filter:
  • by damburger (981828) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:07AM (#24239915)
    You know they play it in Russia too. This must be an engineer having a chuckle...
    • by dnwq (910646)
      How so? [wikipedia.org]

      In the Doom novels, the main character is referred to as Flynn "Fly" Taggart, which is universally suggested to be the Doomguy from the games. However, Tom Hall's original design draft, also known as The Doom Bible, suggested his name was Buddy Dacote ("Dacote" being short for "Dies at conclusion of this episode", which is indeed the fate of the character, although he continues his adventure in the second episode). In the Doom film adaptation, the main character, John "Reaper" Grimm (played by Karl U

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:32AM (#24240037)
      "Grunt" is the Russian word for "soil", not a word for "An infantry soldier. slang (orig. US)". But still, yours is an interesting thought. :-)
      • by damburger (981828)
        Given the level of international cooperation, the guy who named the project almost certainly speaks good English and has had enough contact with Americans to pick up slang, and maybe figured the guys who signed the cheques didn't.
      • "Grunt" is the Russian word for "soil"

        He should have called it "Earth" then. In Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books people of the distant future wonder why the ancestral home of mankind was called "dirt".

        • He should have called it "Earth" then. In Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books people of the distant future wonder why the ancestral home of mankind was called "dirt".

          "Earth" comes from the Hebrew "Artz" which means Earth, ground, and dirt.

          • Can you prove this with a source? As far as I know, this is supposed to be quite an old Indo-European root, not a Semitic loanword - and being a path of the core vocabulary of human language, these things tend to be quit stable.
            • I just went searching, but I cannot find anything later than Greek. But even the Greek Era looks obviously like a Hebrew loan word. There are lots of uncredited Hebrew loan words in Greek, and most of the Greek letters as well.

              In Hebrew the vowels (such as "A" and "E" for Artz and Earth) are the same. And the Greeks loved to change just the ending of words to Hellinize them.

      • by kalirion (728907)

        "Grunt" is the Russian word for "soil"

        I know quite a bit of Russian, and that's news to me. According to this [freedict.com], Russian word for "soil" is pochva, and that's the word I'm familiar with.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Cyberax (705495)

          They are mostly synonyms.

          "Pochva" means a part of Earth's crust on which plants can grow.

          "Grunt" means any soil.

          PS: Russian is my native language.

        • by osu-neko (2604)

          I know quite a bit of Russian, and that's news to me. According to this [freedict.com], Russian word for "soil" is pochva, and that's the word I'm familiar with.

          Comments like this always leave me scratching my head. The second sentence is a complete non sequitur unless one has never heard of synonyms. I don't believe the author has never heard of synonyms. So what exactly were they thinking when they said this?

    • It's too much of a coincidence - I agree, although they may have played this [wikipedia.org]too.
    • Looks like this mission is the first ever in the world with plans to return back to earth from Mars(or its moons). And for under 100 mill$, its a bargain.

      Best of luck to the P-G team.

      • Nope, at a minimum it's the second. Steve Squyres [wikipedia.org] helped to plan a scheme back in the 80's where a rover would be used to allow scientists to choose from which area samples would be taken. What amounts to an engineering model of the proposed rover flew as Sojourner on the Mars Pathfinder [wikipedia.org] mission. A simplified version of the camera designed for the sample return rover is now the PANCAM on the two MER [wikipedia.org] rovers. (Spirit, and Opportunity.)

        • by anilg (961244)

          If I understand correctly, the rover would help _choose_ the area for samples, but no plans to return. The wiki link [wikipedia.org] doesn't mention it ever having plans of returning.

          The P-G actually plans on taking off and coming back to earth. FTFA:

          Finally it will land on Phobos, collect soil samples and return them to Earth, leaving behind another module that will continue to transmit data on Phobos and the Red Planet for at least another 12 months.

          Thats probably a first.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:14AM (#24239951) Homepage
    I study minority languages of Russia and travel to many areas of the country outside the big, internationally known cities. There is desparate poverty everywhere. I'm not one of those killjoys who think you have to completely solve all human ills before launching anything into space, but it's a big mystery how Russia can come up with money for space, and yet can't seem to raise the standard of living enough to stop its demographic implosion and high rates of unemployment and deadly alcoholism. The country's priorities are so much more mixed up than the homelands of NASA or the ESA that they should seriously put this on hold.
    • by mahmud (254877) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:23AM (#24239985)

      I'm not one of those killjoys who think you have to completely solve all human ills before launching anything into space, but it's a big mystery how Russia can come up with money for space, and yet can't seem to raise the standard of living enough to stop its demographic implosion and high rates of unemployment and deadly alcoholism.

      Because if you actually studied Economics instead of minority languages, you would understand that Russia is already overspending on its social programmes. Giving money to the poor is the best way to fuel the inflation. Plus 65M$ is a drop in a bucket compared to the current Russian currency reserves.

      I am not one of those killjoys who think that poor people shouldn't be helped at all and that the markets should completely take over the welfare functions but it's a big mystery how some people fail to see the big picture even though they routinely travel through the country and are exposed to the economic processes taking care there.

      • by mahmud (254877)
        In the last sentence:
        s/taking care there/taking place there/
      • Giving money to the poor is the best way to fuel the inflation.

        You don't have to directly hand out cash to people to eradicate poverty. Governments routinely boost the economies of regions hard hit by giving tax breaks to local businesses, maintain the infrastructure they built, and spend more on education there. (Adjacent republics in Russia can have wildly different economies based on how well the schools are preparing people for a global economy, look at the difference between poor Yoshkar-Ola and increasingly affluent Cheboksary.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mahmud (254877)
          I guess what you are pointing at is the difference in the quality of management by the governors and the local legislative and executive bodies in different places.

          Certainly the quality of the bureaucrats in Russia has a lot of drastic improvements to make. Still, having a decent space program does in no way interfer with the management issues that plague the Russian "glubinka". Quite to the contrary, if the youth of the country will see that the once powerful scientific industry of the country is gettin
          • by CRCulver (715279)

            I guess what you are pointing at is the difference in the quality of management by the governors and the local legislative and executive bodies in different places.

            Not at all. Much has been written about how local governors in many republics are little more than puppets of the Kremlin, having no authority of their own and quickly being replaced if they come up with any independent initiatives. Why the Kremlin is favouring a tiny handful of poor areas while leaving most to rot is a big mystery.

      • Oops, to continue my last post: it seems like Russia is abandoning huge amounts of its territory in a way I've never seen in the U.S. or the EU. Things are left to rot, people pack up and move to Moscow (virtually every young minority person I know is there already or is planning to go soon) or abroad, and no local businesses ever come in. And yet, as it self-defeatingly retreats from all this space, the Asian portion of which which is ripe for China to eventually grab through force or demographics, Russia gets more nationalistic and ethnocentric of late.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by megaditto (982598)

          Russia gets more nationalistic and ethnocentric of late.

          As does any nation in decline. (Sadly, now including the US of A...)

        • by Guppy06 (410832)

          "Oops, to continue my last post: it seems like Russia is abandoning huge amounts of its territory in a way I've never seen in the U.S. or the EU."

          Twice the land area, half the population, and central planning isn't around to tell them where they have to live any more.

          "Things are left to rot, people pack up and move to Moscow (virtually every young minority person I know is there already or is planning to go soon) or abroad, and no local businesses ever come in."

          May I suggest touring places like Ohio, Michig

        • I feel really bad for our minorities, but they are a .... minority. And you are not being entirely truthful, a few years ago the economic prosperity has started spilling out of the Moscow metro area, the development has come here to Siberia, where I live. It is unfortunate but for a while Russia will be like South Africa, maybe two third of people will live in economically developed urban areas and the rest in desperate poverty in parts of the countryside. I'm not proud of that but I think we are on the r
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by TheJasper (1031512)

        I'm not one of those killjoys who think you have to completely solve all human ills before launching anything into space,

        I am not one of those killjoys who think that poor people shouldn't be helped at all and that the markets should completely take over the welfare functions .

        I study neither economics nor minority languages. It seems to me however that quite a bit of corruption has a negative effect on both capitalistic and socialistic programs.
        A prestige project is good for national morale and could help the country as a whole. At 65M$ (10â approx) it isn't all that expensive. Of course the whole program costs more.
        Keeping it in perspective, the russian gdp is 1.3 trillion $, the budget is 299 billion$ in, 265 billion$ out. Meaning about 24 billion $ is surplus. 65M$ i

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by infolib (618234)

        Because if you actually studied Economics instead of minority languages, you would understand that Russia is already overspending on its social programmes. Giving money to the poor is the best way to fuel the inflation.

        If they can really build spacecraft to bring back frigging soil samples from a martian moon for only 60 MBucks, wouldn't economy rather dictate that other nations out-sourced their development to Russia? It might actually help their economy and total global friendship and all that. And the

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      it's a big mystery how Russia can come up with money for space, and yet can't seem to raise the standard of living enough to stop its demographic implosion and high rates of unemployment and deadly alcoholism.

      Consider India, which has been a fantastically successful exporter for centuries, and has a large middle class. It still has hundred of millions of dirt poor people.

      The only reason I can think of is entrenched social inequity. It doesn't have much to do with how much you spend on space programs. It is caused by racism, prejudice and apathy. We have the same problem in Australia with our aboriginal people.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by inflex (123318)

        Unlike India with it's various classes and such things as "untouchables" at least in Australia there is a genuine continuing effort to -try- and improve things for the Aboriginals. The issues surrounding the disproportionate level of poverty, disease, crime etc with Aboriginals are complex to say the very least but at least we're trying to find a way to make things better. I know around here there have been many success stories.

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Poverty in India == Caste? Last I looked, the Chief minister of my province, and of a majority of most other provinces, were "lower" caste. There is more than 35-40% affirmative action. The poor are still poor because of the same causes that exist worldwide - the the top of the economic pyramid always denies access from the bottom to their resources ...

          Who the fuck feeds you this meme of Poverty in India == Caste? Perhaps your friendly local church that, by mixing myths about India from reality there, seper

          • by ricegf (1059658)

            Who feeds you this meme of Poverty in India == Caste? Perhaps your friendly local church

            I've been a Christian for 47 years, and still haven't heard a single sermon on Indian Caste. Seems like we're always talking about Jewish people for some reason. I feel deprived.

    • by antirelic (1030688) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:57AM (#24240179) Journal

      There is never a good time to do anything when it comes to the suffering/malignancies of humanity. If we used every problem as a reason to stop moving forward in other areas, the United States would never have put a man on the moon. Just take a look at this wiki page with references to 1969:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969 [wikipedia.org]

      You have the Vietnam War, massive protests throughout the country, civil rights movements (and everything that went along with it)... etc.. The world will always be a messy place, no reason to stop making progress.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Pardon me for questioning a sacred cow here, but SO WHAT if we had never put a man on the moon? Certainly, we've reaped real benefits from the early space program (communications satellites, GPS, etc.). But what would we REALLY have suffered if the Apollo program had never happened? The only thing we would have missed (as far as I can tell) was a chance to show up the Russkies (the one and only time NASA ever did something the Russians didn't do first, whoopty doo!). And, with the Cold War in retrospect now
      • by praksys (246544)

        You have the Vietnam War, massive protests throughout the country, civil rights movements (and everything that went along with it)... etc.. The world will always be a messy place, no reason to stop making progress.

        None of those problems had anything to do with a lack of money. Indeed some of the the social upheavals were the result of prosperity, rather than poverty, and in the late 1960s the US embarked on the largest scale anti-poverty spending scheme in history (LBJ's "Great Society program).

        The GP is co

    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      There is desparate poverty everywhere.

      As there was in Russia in 1917, or a century before.

      ..but it's a big mystery how Russia can come up with money for space, and yet can't seem to raise the standard of living enough to stop its demographic implosion and high rates of unemployment and deadly alcoholism.

      I respect your opinion greatly, as you indeed have first hand experience of what is happening in Russia, but from my reading of Russian history (biased as it may be) poverty has been widespread throughout Russia's long past. There appear to be few golden ages, certainly nothing that resembles prosperity reaching the lower classes. The current disorder and corruption in Russia is particularly bad, especially when you throw in a rushed sexual revolution mix

    • by aliquis (678370)

      I don't know, maybe because high tech projects can lead to more income?

      And they probably have some pride / weapons was important / ..

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      The basic problem with tath idea is encapsulated by the phrase "Throwing money into space."

      The money does NOT go into space. A rather small amount of metal and some organic matter goes into space.

      THE MONEY STAYS ON EARTH. It provides JOBS.

      During the Great Depression in the USA, they spent massive amounts of cash on 'beautification' programs that paid for art. This one done in part to employ the people.

      If you are against poverty, you should be infavor of space program. It is a worthwhile program tha

      • by bonehead (6382)

        The swimming pool in my hometown was built during the depression under such a program. No backhoes, no tractors, just a bunch of guys with shovels. And it's a BIG pool.

        All the concrete work, plumbing, brick work, etc... was also done 100% by hand. Partially because there just wasn't much equipment available, but mainly because doing it that way allowed the project to keep more people on the payroll for a longer period of time.

    • by emilper (826945)

      1990s called and want their Russia back.

    • Disclaimer - I've spent substantial time in Russia and seen things first hand. Now, the flaws:
      1. Space programs are cheap compared to social programs. $65M is nothing.
      2. If you don't pay the engineers, they will leave and they can't be easily replaced. In other words you have to keep them occupied, or someone else will.
      3. This money doesn't just "disappear". It gets paid to the folks who, as you astutely put it, "live in poverty" by US standards.
      4. A lot of the folks who live in poverty would not try to imp

    • Should the Human species as whole stop pursuing Space, because there are people starving in Africa?

      I admit that it wasn't the best analogy, but couldn't come up with a Car one.
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:16AM (#24239959)
    ...wait, my bad. It's a moon.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:19AM (#24239969)
      ...wait, my bad. It's a moon.

      Just wait until they introduce a hydrostatic equilibrum requirement for moons. When that happens, it'll be a dwarf moon. Or a Phoboid.

      • ...wait, my bad. It's a moon.

        Just wait until they introduce a hydrostatic equilibrum requirement for moons. When that happens, it'll be a dwarf moon. Or a Phoboid.

        Oh damn I have already posted so I can't mod you hilarious and a little bit too close to the truth.

    • If I had a dollar for every comment titled "That's no moon..." that I've seen on /., well... I'd probably be sued by George Lucas... But assuming that didn't happen, I could easily afford my new video card several times over. That is, of course, not counting comments titled "That's no moon..." that I haven't seen :P
      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        What about all the robot overlord comments? Hell, I'd just like to have a dollar for all the robot overlord comments that I posted.
        • by vaz01 (1206962)

          I find it really odd that I haven't seen any mention of "In Soviet Russia, martian moon probes you"... or something to that effect.

          If Russia had a dollar for every time that's been posted on /., it'd have itself a free Phobos-Grunt.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mbone (558574)

      You are aware that in the 1950's there was a serious proposal from the Soviet astrophysicist I.S. Shklovsky that Phobos actually was a space station ? This hypothesis attempted to explain the obital decay of the moon by atmospheric drag, which meant that it had to have such a low mass to area ratio that it basically had to be hollow.

      Now the model for the orbital decay of Phobos is that it is due to tidal friction, but the spacecraft idea was seriously entertained for a while.

  • In Russia, Moon comes to you!
  • by Atti K. (1169503)
    Now prepare for Soviet Russia jokes in 3... 2... 1...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheJasper (1031512)
      In Soviet Russia the jokes prepare for you.

      happy now?

      • by bonehead (6382)

        Somebody please hurry up and figure out time travel so we can go back and erase Yakov Smirnoff from history.

        • by ringm000 (878375)
          Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1977 Odessa, having taken the place of one of the MID clerks and denied an exit visa for Yakov Naumovich Pokhis. Let a free world rejoice!
          • I have just returned from 1977, having gone back to fix your error. Turns out that if Yakov does not leave Soviet Russia, he becomes next Stalin, and CCCP wins Cold War.

            • by bonehead (6382)

              Still a small price to pay in order to live in a world free of "In Soviet Russia" jokes. Please reverse your actions.

              • Tovaritsch, you do not understand. In other timeline, all speeches by Life Ruler consists of 'In Soviet Roosha' jokes, and is on TV EVERYWHERE on planet.

                Suicide is most common cause of death.

        • In Soviet Russia, Yakov Smirnoff erases you!
  • If Russia actually thinks the space-race can ever go their way again ? Not inconceivable but surely a highly improbable concept. So why the effort then ?
    Perhaps because they would rather keep their rocket-scientists at home than have them all leave for high-paying jobs at NASA and the ESA ? Especially after the not insignificant government subsidies that paid a portion of their study fees.
    An investment the Russians would surely want to capitalize on - and the engineers must get a kick out of the new challen

    • If Russia actually thinks the space-race can ever go their way again ? Not inconceivable but surely a highly improbable concept. So why the effort then ?

      Just because one guy thinks he is racing the other, that doesn't make it a race. I don't see how a country wishing to continue its space program automatically puts it into a race.

      • It's not so much a Race, it's a business. People need to launch satellites and the people they go to are Russians. It makes you very marketable when your rockets are cheaper and more reliable then the competition (a good bang for the buck, so to speak) and when you have a space agency that's perusing space exploration you encourage innovation... un-like the US that can barely keep it's shuttles flying.
        • that was what I was thinking in the back of my mind. At my company, we are facing a bit of a crunch right now. We had a hiring lull for a period of 10-15 years. The result is that we have a bunch of 20 somethings, and 50+ somethings. It is great for someone like me since the opportunity to advance is much easier. Unfortunately, it is very difficult cramming in all of the knowledge from my coworker before he leaves. And lets just say that cramming about the 'lessons learned' from the Apollo missions i

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      You speak of the Russian space program is some forgotten relic of the past. In your alternate history I guess NASA doesn't have to bum rides from them every time their shitty space shuttle falls apart (and in the future when it gets retired with no replacement yet in sight). In fact, with the sole exception of the first man on the moon, Russia has ALWAYS led the way in space (as loathe as the American media are to admit it).
  • Phobos is intriguing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denver38 (1050472) on Friday July 18, 2008 @07:50AM (#24240139)
    Phobos never failed to intrigue me. From Wikipedia: Phobos's unusually close orbit around its parent planet produces some unusual effects. As seen from Phobos, Mars would appear 6,400 times larger and 2,500 times brighter than the full Moon appears from Earth, taking up a quarter of the width of a celestial hemisphere. Some nice pictures of Mars, including Phobos, can be found here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/06/martian_skies.html [boston.com]
    • The grooves are really strange. Looking at the pictures they seem to line up with the orbital motion of the moon, ie, a bit like streaks of windblown mud on a car.

      I wonder if they are caused by debris thrown up by impacts on the surface of Mars. I imagine Phobos flying through clouds of debris, some of which splutter off the leading face of the moon, then fall back and roll along the surface, creating shallow crater chains.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mbone (558574)

      Phobos is dynamically very interesting. Its orbit is decaying, due to its tidal interaction with Mars, and yet the tide it raises in Mars (as seen by its orbital decay) indicates a flexibility in the crust and mantle of Mars that is not in agreement with other measurements.

    • These pictures have made my day. Truly awe inspiring. I stared at the sunset one for ages. Mind blowing stuff.
  • "Fear-Grunt"

    Well, it ain't exactly Pushkin...

  • Some needs to tell the Russians that the beluga sturgeon isn't the same as the beluga whale.

    There's no caviar on Mars' Moons. Just plenty of blubber, obviously.
  • Getting a payload back from Phobos would be good practice. Getting a manned mission back from Phobos would be even better. Preferably rendezvousing with a Martian payload a lander has deposited.

    Remember, it wasn't Apollo 1 that landed on the moon. When people start talking about an Apollo 8 style mission to Mars (but better), we'll know Mars isn't a fantasy anymore.

  • Pour millions upon millions into space travel! If we don't, those damn ruskies will beat us!

    ...Pretty please?
    • Pour millions upon millions into space travel! If we don't, those damn ruskies will beat us! General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, we must not allow a Phobos gap!

  • by mbone (558574) on Friday July 18, 2008 @08:59AM (#24240709)

    Basically all of our knowledge of the surface of Venus comes from the Soviet Venera [mentallandscape.com] spacecraft. The Soviets developed the ability to land spacecraft on the hellishly hot surface of Venus, conduct experiments, and send back some pretty cool pictures [mentallandscape.com].

    Given that Venus is pretty similar to the Earth, except with run-away global warming, and that no other space agency has seen fit to do any surface missions, I wish that the Russians would send some more landers to Venus.

  • by mbone (558574) on Friday July 18, 2008 @09:04AM (#24240759)

    Pictures from the Soviet Phobos mission can be found here [mentallandscape.com].

    • Very cool. Thanks for posting the link to this. I agree with posters before, the Phobos missions are really interesting. Mars is the new frontier in some ways in that we haven't been there and it is realistically possible to go to their in a manageable amount of time. Every time stuff comes back from these missions I get excited. I was really interested in the ice that it looks like they found pretty recently.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

Working...