Contrary to the article mentioned in my 12/4/2009 entry, more media reports have surfaced that the Phobos-Grunt («Фобос-Грунт», Photos-Soil) probe to the Martian moon will launch later this year after all, as noted in this month’s FP Space posts, but it is hard to know what to believe! The article below is from a post at NASASpaceflight.com:
Preparations For Launch Of Phobos-Grunt Probe Proceed As Planned
Moscow ITAR-TASS in English 1307 GMT 05 May 09
Moscow, May 5 (Itar-Tass) – All preparations for launching the Phobos-Grunt space probe, expected to deliver to the Earth samples of Martian soil, proceed strictly as planned, the general director and general designer of the Lavochkin research and production association (the probe’s manufacturer), Georgy Polishchuk, told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
“The work schedule is tight, but everything is on time and the question of shifting the launch from 2009 to 2001 has not been discussed anywhere,” Polishchuk told Itar-Tass in the wake of media rumors the probe’s launch had to be delayed due to a shortage of personnel.
Polishchuk said the Phobos-Grunt probe, which is on the list of the federal space program extending till 2015, is a number one priority for the Lavochkin Association.
“At the launch site and at the head office work is in full swing. Cooperation with the Chinese partners proceeds well,” he said.
The Lavochkin Association has already integrated a test sample of the Chinese micro-satellite with the Russian probe, and the flight sample will be delivered to Russia on June 17.
The probe’s Wikipedia page has more information.
From Novosti Kosmonavtiki №779:
05/05/2009/11:45 – The waiting period for cosmonaut flight in Russia will be reduced by half
Russian cosmonauts, who are now waiting for their turn to fly more than a decade, will no longer have to wait so long. Starting this year, the ISS will be expanded to a crew of six people.
“This year we will send four Soyuz ships to the ISS, and the queue will move much faster,” said Yuri Gidzenko, the first deputy head of cosmonauts.
In turn, the first hereditary cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, the acting commander of the cosmonaut detachment at TsPK (Star City), said that in his opinion, the younger cosmonauts will “sit on the bench” only half as long as his generation. “If there will be four launches a year, they will have to wait five years for a flight, not eleven as we did,” he said.