MOSCOW, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe and China's Yinghuo-1 satellite are to blast off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Zenit-2SB rocket at 00:16 a.m. Moscow time Wednesday (2016 GMT Tuesday).
With the unmanned mission to Mars, Russia and China take an ambitious and important step to inter-planetary explorations.
The main aim of the Phobos-Grunt mission is to bring back the first ever soil sample from Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.
The probe is expected to reach Mars in 2012 and then deploy its lander for Phobos in 2013 before returning the sample back to the Earth in August 2014.
Russia has spent about five billion rubles (about 161 million U.S. dollars) preparing for the three-year mission, which would include drilling into Phobos' surface and returning 200 grams of soil back to the Earth, according to the Russian state space agency Roscosmos.
The mission would also collect bacteria samples for two Russian and one U.S. biological experiments, as scientists want to find out if the bacteria can survive a long space trip.
China's first Mars probe "Yinghuo," which means light from the firefly in Chinese, will go into orbit around Mars and observe the planet itself.
The Chinese probe is 75 cm long, 75 cm wide and 60 cm high. It weighs 115 kg and was designed for a two-year life to discover why water disappeared from Mars and to explain other environmental changes on the planet.
The launch of Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1, originally scheduled for October 2009 on a Russian carrier rocket, has been postponed until 2011 due to Russia's "technical reasons."