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China and Russia to launch joint mission to Mars

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Mars
China and Russia are planning a joint mission to Mars that will bring back samples to earth and land on one of the red planet's tiny moons, state media quoted a Chinese scientist as saying Wednesday.

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Ye Peijian, of the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, made the announcement at a forum on the nation's space technology development, Xinhua news agency said.

Ye said Russia will launch the spacecraft in 2009 and it will carry China-made survey equipment. The mission will collect samples on Mars and the planet's nearest moon, according to Xinhua.

Sun Laiyan, of the China National Space Administration, said in June that China would focus on the moon and Mars in its deep space exploration program over the next five years.

The program calls for stepping up international cooperation, he said.

China has previously said it hopes to launch a lunar exploration satellite next year as part of a program that aims to place an unmanned vehicle on the moon by 2010.

In 2003 it successfully launched astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit, becoming the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to put a man in space.

© 2006 AFP
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