Sometime later this year, China and Russia will launch joint Mars probes aboard a Russian carrier rocket. The Chinese Mars probe, Yinghuo-1 will orbit Mars and study why water disappeared from the planet in a scientific research study. The Russian Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt is expected to land on one of the moons of Mars, Phobos, and to take a soil sample, and then to return to Earth with the sample. Yinghuo is a Chinese word meaning the light that a firefly produces.
The Chinese probe also will study why the environment changed on Mars so much that the water disappeared. That has been a serious scientific question for several years among space experts and geologists.
China had hoped by 2010 to be able to stage a manned moon landing, however that appears to be running behind those hopes. However, China continues to make steady progress in efforts towards space exploration.
Despite the bad American economy and serious budget problems, President Obama seems intent on eventually improving America's space exploration program after the Shuttle program ends. This past week. President Obama named decorated Air Force pilot and astronaut, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., 62, to become NASA's first African American head. Bolden flew 100 combat missions in Vietnam, as well as piloted several Space Shuttle flights. He spends time off teaching school children about the space program, and is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic supporters of space exploration. Likely he will urge the President to fund a program for a return to the Moon in the future as well as a vision for a future manned Mars landing.
It takes 10 months for a space vehicle to travel to Mars.
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