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Russia Left Out of New NASA Mars Project

Published: August 4, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • An artist's rendering of the Curiosity rover.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NASA will not use any Russian equipment to build its newest Mars rover, but a top Russian scientist said Sunday that political tension between Russia and the U.S. over the crisis in Ukraine had nothing to do with the decision.

A Russian-made instrument called NORD — which is an upgraded version of the neutron detector used aboard NASA's most recent Mars rover, Curiosity — was simply not up to scratch, said Lev Zeleny, head of the Russia Academy of Science's Institute for Space Studies.

NASA announced a tender last year to select the seven instruments that would be used by the new rover, which is simply known as Mars 2020 — a reference to the scheduled date of the mission.

However, when NASA presented the chosen instruments at a news conference in Washington last week, no Russian instruments were on display, prompting observers to jump to the conclusion that the crisis in Ukraine was beginning to unravel the vaunted U.S.-Russia space partnership.

"If you participate in a contest, it isn't guaranteed that you will win," Zeleny told reporters at the annual assembly of the International Committee on Space Research, which is being held in Moscow this year.

"There were a number of other applications, and it didn't go our way. I wouldn't want to link it to political reasons," he said.

NASA's leading Mars specialist, Michael Mayer, said at last week's news conference that the agency had received 58 proposals from companies around the world for their equipment to be fitted to the new rover. In the end, NASA opted for scientific equipment developed by U.S., Spanish, French and Norwegian scientists.

Mars 2020 will be based on the Curiosity rover, which successfully landed on the red planet in 2012.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos is currently working on a Mars probe with the European Space Agency, or ESA. NASA was originally slated to be the ESA's partner on the project, but budget cuts in Washington forced the U.S. space agency to withdraw from the program. Europe turned to Russia, which was eager to get involved in a new Mars project following the loss of the Phobos-Grunt probe in low-Earth orbit in 2011.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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