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Robbie writes "The Russian space program once faced bleak prospects, receiving meager government funding. Meanwhile, the United States and the ESA continued to send automatic probes to the Red Planet. NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers are now crawling on the planet's surface, while their Russian prototypes never lifted off and are now on display at the Space Research Institute's museum.
However, the situation seems to be improving today. Under a stage-by-stage national program for studying Mars, the Phobos-Grunt automatic probe will be launched in October 2009. This cutting-edge modular spacecraft costs just 1.5 billion rubles ($64.4 million)."