Table of contents
Scientific goals
Scheme of the mission
Payload of the Orbiter
Scientific goals of
the experiments
Description of
the instruments
Small Stations

At the end of the 1980's, the successful broad scientific exploration program of Venus was fulfilled, the successful mission to Halley Comet was completed and the mission to Phobos, having limited success, was also realized, At this time, Mars was chosen as the main object for future planetary exploration within the Russian Space Program. The basic arguments in favour of such a choice were the following:

  • Mars, like Venus, is one of the terrestrial planets and is of great interest from the viewpoint of investigating the nature and evolution of the Solar system.
  • Earlier missions to Mars showed that this planet in its earlier history was much more similar to the Earth than that is now. There is evidence that, at an earlier time, Mars had large bodies of water and rivers on its surface.
  • Studies of the evolution of the atmosphere and climate of Mars will help us understand better the history of our own planet and allow us to forecast its future.
  • With the presence of a previous hydrosphere on Mars, a biosphere could have also formed. Among the other planets of the solar system, it is Mars where life very possibly exists or existed earlier. Because of this possibility, Mars indeed is the first planet where we will send astronauts to visit. However, before such manned exploration, it is necessary to study this planet thoroughly using unmanned vehicles.

The previous Venus, comet and Phobos exploration has developed an excellent technical base to transfer to a successful Mars exploration program. We have inherited a basic orbiter module developed earlier for the PHOBOS Mission as well as the experience gained in designing landers and performing complex mission operations.

In Russia, the preparation for this new mission to Mars began in early 1989, immediately after the completion of the mission to Phobos. Since then, this project became one of the highest priorities of the Russian Federation Space Studies Program. Earlier, this Program included two missions to Mars: one in 1994 and one in 1996. The launch in 1994 was not realized because of national economic difficulties. It had to be rescheduled for launch in 1996.

The MARS-96 spacecraft consists of the following units:

  • the orbiter which will perform detailed remote sensing studies of Mars and in-situ studies of the plasma environment around Mars;
  • two autonomous small stations which will land on the surface;
  • two penetrators which will penetrate into the Martian soil.

The spacecraft, small stations and penetrators were developed and manufactured at the Lavochkin Research and Operational Association (NPO). The small stations were designed in cooperation with the Space Research Institute (IKI), the penetrators in cooperation with the Vernadsky Institute (GEOHI). The scientific payload was integrated and initially tested at IKI before being delivered for final integration and testing with the spacecraft at NPO. The scientific instruments were developed and manufactured in scientific institutes of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, USA and the European Space Agency.

Acad. A.A.Galeev is the Scientific Head of the Project, Dr. V.I.Moroz is the Deputy of the Scientific Head, V.M.Kovtunenko, Corr.Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is the General Designer of the Project, R.S.Kremnev is the Deputy of the General Designer, Dr. V.M.Linkin is the Scientific Head of the Small Station Project, Dr. Yu.A. Surkov is the Scientific Head of the Penetrator Project, Dr. A.V.Zakharov is the Project Scientist, E.M.Vasiljev is the Technical Director of the Orbiter scientific instrument complex, and V.I.Subbotin is his Deputy.

In the beginning of the chapterHome