Russian President Vladimir Putin just declared that he is planning a Mars mission, plunging Russia into a competition where multiple countries and companies are already involved.
The Russian mission will include multiple journeys to the Red Planet, with the first launch scheduled for 2019. The idea is to send an unmanned spaceship to Mars first.
"We are planning unmanned and later manned launches – into deep space, as part of a lunar program and for Mars exploration. The closest mission is very soon, we are planning to launch a mission to Mars in 2019," Putin said in an interview shown in a new documentary by Andrey Kondrashov, reported RT.
IBTimes India could not verify any of the claims in the report, and there were no other independently verified reports on the Putin interview.
NASA's next Mars mission is slated for launch in 2020, with the intent to look for possible human habitats and also for past microbial life.
It is not clear what the Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, intends to do in their first launch to Mars. Other details like the launch vehicle, the spaceship, and even what the science mission of this 2019 launch is still not known.
Putin also reportedly said that Russia's Moon missions will focus on its polar regions.
"Our specialists will try landing near the poles because there are reasons to expect water there. There is research to be done there, and from that, research of other planets and outer space can be undertaken," Putin said.
(This story will be updated as details emerge.)