Calling this project "ambitious" is probably an understatment, though I wouldn't write this off as nonsense. As ludicrously low as the price may seem, three and a half billion dollars really is a lot of money. NASA is unable to bring project prices down because they must contract much of their work out to companies that seek large profits margins. If the Russian group can purchase most of their hardware at wholesale cost, they could indeed meet their budgetary constraints. I wouldn't be surprised if they followed a mission plan similar to the Mars Direct plan by the Mars Society either, as it's one of the most cost-effective plans around.
Considering the landing and launch dates of the mission, the group will have to follow an extremely rapid development cycle; desiging, building and testing all the equipment and personnel in just five years. But then again, we've been researching how to do a manned mars misson for decades - I guess it's just time someone brought all the pieces together.
|Contractor :||Central Research Institute for Machine-Building|
|Funding :||Aerospace Systems|
|Payload :||Crew of 6, "garden, medical facilities and other amenities."|
|Cost :||$3.5 billion|