Putin announces Russia's mission to Mars in 2019

NASA begins assembly, test, and launch operations for Mars 2020 rover

NASA's Mars 2020 mission rover begins test and launch operations development phase

"There is research to be done there and, from there, studies of other planets and distant outer space can be implemented".

The plans for Russia's lunar program include a landing test at moons' southern pole scheduled for 2019, testing technology that can be used for a permanent lunar outpost in 2023 and a soil retrieval mission in 2025.

In 2020, the European Space Agency and Roskosmos are planning to send to Mars the second phase of the joint mission of ExoMars, involving the landing of a landing gear and a rover on the surface of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 rover, as well as its cruise stage, aeroshell and descent stage - a rocket-powered "sky crane" that will lower the rover to the planet's surface - will undergo final assembly at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility High Bay 1 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA hopes the mission will help to answer key questions about the potential for life on Mars. "And on the wall behind them, you will see all the logos of the historic missions of exploration that have also been assembled in High Bay 1 in the past".

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This is the first time news has emerged about the mission and Russia's next journey to the planet was previously expected to come in 2020.

Propulsion systems for the rover's cruise and descent stage main structures were installed over the course of the past few months.

Putin did not specify when in 2019 the Mars mission would happen. "Right now we are working the descent stage, and by fall we expect to be working on the rover itself".

"We will now carry out unmanned and then manned launches to explore deep space, and a lunar programme, and then the exploration of Mars", Mr Putin said in a state television film highlighting his accomplishments during 18 years in power. This would beat the planned Nasa mission to the red planet by a year.

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