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Russia is pushing forward on a robotic mission to Mars dubbed Phobos-Grunt - now seemingly on a countdown clock that ticks away for an October launch.
If the project is on track and off the ground by that time, Phobos-Grunt would arrive at the red planet in August of next year.
Phobos-Grunt is intended also to cast an orbital eye on Mars too, but then plop down on Phobos - one of that planet's two moons, scrape up on-the-spot samples and then transport those extraterrestrial tidbits to Earth in July 2012. As it swoops by Earth, the spacecraft is to release a capsule containing all the samples gathered on Phobos, to land on Earth.
Phobos 1 operated nominally until an expected communications session on September 2, 1988 failed to occur.
Phobos 2 operated nominally throughout its cruise and Mars orbital insertion phases on January 29, 1989, gathering data on the Sun, interplanetary medium, Mars, and Phobos. Shortly before the final phase of the mission, during which the spacecraft was to approach within 50 m of Phobos' surface and release two landers, one a mobile "hopper", the other a stationary platform, contact with Phobos 2 was lost.