SUMMARY: The Associated Press is reporting that a private group of Russian space experts announced plans to send 6 humans to Mars by 2011 - for a cost of only $3.5 billion. An official from the Central Research Institute for Machine Building said it would carry out the mission with funding by Aerospace Systems, and would be completely private. The program envisions six cosmonauts traveling to Mars and exploring it for several months before returning to Earth - the total journey would take three years. The mission costs would be low because it would use existing spacecraft. The Russian Space Agency has no involvement with this mission, and dismissed it as nonsense.

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