UPDATE 3: Russia Launches Probe to Mars's Moon Phobos

UPDATE 3: Russia Launches Probe to Mars's Moon Phobos

UPDATE 3: Anatoly Zak at RussianSpaceWeb.com tweets that second stage shutdown was successful. Spaceflightnow.com tweets that it “should now be in orbit” with two more burns to put it on course for Mars.

UPDATE 2: Liftoff!

UPDATE: Spaceflightnow.com is providing live streaming webcast of the launch.

ORIGINAL STORY: Russia is set to launch its first robotic Mars probe in 15 years this afternoon.

The Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-soil) mission is scheduled to lift off from the Baikomur Cosmodrome at 00:16 Moscow Time November 9 (3:16 pm EST today, November 8) according to Roscosmos’s (the Russian space agency’s) website.

The last Russian attempt to launch a probe to Mars was in 1996. The spacecraft, Mars-96, failed to leave Earth orbit due to a fourth stage failure, adding to the long list of Russian Mars probe failures since the 1960s. Russia has never had a completely successful Mars mission, although the Phobos 2 probe in 1989 returned imagery while orbiting Mars. It failed, however, in its primary mission to study Mars’s moon, Phobos.

The spacecraft being launched today is designed to return a sample of Phobos to Earth. A Chinese Mars orbiter, Yinghuo-1, will also be deployed. They will be launched on a Zenit rocket.

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