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Russia and Europe view joint 2016 Mars project

By Wolfgang Jung –

MOSCOW — Russian space agency Roskosmos and the European Space Agency signed a statement of intent Friday to launch a mission to explore Mars.

From 2016, the ExoMars project is to look for traces of life in space, at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion dollars, Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin and ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain said in Moscow.

“The final agreement is to be signed in November,” said a spokesman for Roskosmos, Ria Novosty news agency reported.

U.S. space agency NASA is not expected to participate, because of funding shortages.

Meanwhile, Roskosmos was waiting for the controlled descent of a Russian 1.6-ton communication satellite. Molnija-1T was expected to fall into the Pacific Ocean early Saturday. It was launched from northern Russia in 1996.

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