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Two for Phobos.

Two for Phobos

An elaborate Soviet mission to photograph, land on, drill into and analyze the tiny Martian moon Phobos (SN: 6/18/88, p.392) got underway with the launching of two unmanned spacecraft on July 7 and 12. The multipurpose vehicles are expected to reach their Mars-circling orbits next Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 respectively, after which they are to send landers down to the satellite's surface, tentatively on April 7 and May 5.

The venture calls for each orbiter to deploy a "hopper" to make surface measurements at several locations, using spring-loaded legs to jump across the terrain from site to site. In addition, each orbiter will spend about 20 minutes moving low across the surface while zapping it with lasers and charged-particle beams, using instruments such as mass spectrometers to study the surface composition.

Several U.S. and European scientists are taking part in the mission, and the U.S. Deep Space Network will provide tracking data to help the Soviets navigate their craft during the tricky maneuvers near Phobos. The space vehicles are the first sent towards Mars since the U.S. Viking project in 1975, and the first from the Soviet Union since the Mars 7 craft took off in 1973.
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Title Annotation:Soviets launch two unmanned spacecraft to explore Martian moon
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 16, 1988
Words:207
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