A spacecraft built for the Russian-European ExoMars project will begin its voyage to Mars in January 2016, Director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Lev Zelyony told Interfax-AVN.

"In all, there will be four stages in this project. An orbiter designed by the European Space Agency will be launched with a Russian Proton-M LV and a Briz-M upper stage in the period from January 7 to January 27, 2016. The spacecraft will arrive in the Martian orbit in October 2016. It will be carrying a number of our and European instruments and a small craft, which will be airdropped to the planet," the scientist said.

The vehicle will spend two weeks on the planet's surface.

The second stage of the mission is scheduled for 2018. "We will contribute a Proton-M launch vehicle, a Briz-M upper stage and a landing platform, which will bring a rover to Mars. The rover will be carrying a Russian payload, too," Zelyony said.

The orbiter launched in 2016 will be transmitting data from the rover to the Earth. "Initially, the orbiter will be doing measurements and after the rover and the landing platform touch down in 2018 some of the orbiter's resources will be used to transmit their data," he added.

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