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Putin Pledges Russian Mars Mission in 2019, Ahead of Musk and Trump

Baikonur Cosmodrome Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Russia will launch a mission to Mars next year, President Vladimir Putin promised in a documentary published on the eve of presidential elections that he is widely expected to win. 

Putin’s promise comes days after California-based entrepreneur Elon Musk announced plans for his private company to launch a rocket to Mars as early as in 2019. Last month, Russian social media users reacted with a mixture of self-irony and pessimism over the country’s space prospects after Musk’s company, SpaceX, successfully launched a Tesla car into Mars’ orbit.

“Very soon, in 2019, we’re going to launch a mission toward Mars,” Putin said in a new documentary film that was posted on Russian social media Thursday. 

Speaking with his re-election campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov in the documentary, the president said Russia would also send a mission to the Moon.

“Our experts will try to land on the poles because there is reason to believe there may be water […] Research of other planets and outer space could begin from there,” Putin said. 

Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order that directed his country’s space program to send astronauts to the moon and “eventually Mars.”

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