Vladimir Putin has unveiled Russia's plan to launch a series of missions to Mars.
The Russian President said the space programme would start with an unmanned launch in 2019 to explore the Red Planet.
With days to go before presidential elections, he told a documentary: "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."
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) has unveiled Russia's plan to launch a series of missions to Mars.
The Russian President said the space programme would start with an unmanned launch in 2019 - before later manned missions to explore the Red Planet.
The president revealed the plans in an interview shown in a new documentary by Andrey Kondrashov.
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The Kremlin strongman added: "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."
This is the first time news has emerged about the mission and Russia's next journey to the planet was previously expected to come in 2020.
Russia's next expected journey to the planet previously expected to come in 2020, as part of the ExoMars rover mission, whose main goal is to find out if life has ever existed on Mars.
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency are cooperating on the ExoMars rover mission.
Its primary objective is to search for signs of microscopic life, whether living or fossilised, on the Red Planet.
The initial stage of the mission, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, entered orbit around Mars in October 2016, although an accompanying lander crashed.
The announcement comes after NASA unveiled its own £1.5billion ($2.1 bn) Mars exploration bid.
The announcement comes after NASA unveiled its own £1.5billion ($2.1 bn) Mars exploration bid, the Mars 2020 mission, which is timed for a launch in mid-2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing.
The Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet.
NASA hopes the mission will help to answer key questions about the potential for life on Mars.
The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars, including producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, and identifying water.
By Julian Robinson
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.