The Russian Mars '96 probe is one in a series of missions, like NASA's Mars Pathfinder, recently undertaken or planned for the near future that herald renewed focus on exploration of Mars.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian government has attempted to continue missions to Mars. These recent efforts have included balloons, orbiters, surface penetrators, and rovers. Recently, the Russians have been more and more willing to cooperate with the United States and European countries, whose contributions to space exploration come in the form of the European Space Agency.
In 1996, Mars 96 was launched. This spacecraft consisted of an orbiter, two soft landers, and two surface penetrators to explore the Martian environment. Mars 96 is planned to study the evolution of Mars, focusing on the atmosphere, surface, and interior.
Photo. An artist's vision of the Russian Mars '96 spacecraft. Courtesy of NASA, JPL.
Mission to Mars. An educational site created for the ThinkQuest contest.