HYDERABAD, India (AFP) — NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, the administrator of the US space agency indicated here Monday.
This year marks the half-century of the space age ushered in by the October 1957 launch of the Sputnik-1 by the then Soviet Union, NASA administrator Michael Griffin noted.
In 2057, the centenary of the space era, "we should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars," Griffin told an international astronautics congress in this southern Indian city where he outlined NASA's future goals.
The international space station being built in orbit and targeted for completion by 2010 would provide a "toehold in space" from where humanity can travel first to the moon and then to Mars, Griffin said.
"We are looking at the moon and Mars to build a civilisation for tomorrow and after that," Griffin added in his remarks at a conference session attended by heads of the world's space agencies.
President George W. Bush in 2004 announced an ambitious plan for the US to return to the moon by 2020 and use it as a stepping stone for manned missions to Mars and beyond.
NASA's Phoenix spacecraft is scheduled to land on the northern plains of Mars next year to determine if the Red Planet could support life.
The agency's Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit resumed their three-year-old mission this month after surviving giant dust storms that nearly destroyed the twin robots.
The rovers were placed in hibernation mode in July to save power because the dust storms were covering their solar panels, impeding their ability to absorb energy from the sun.
And on September 15, 10 gerbils took off from the Russian-run Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan for a 12-day voyage to test the possible effects of a human mission to Mars.
Missions to the moon and Mars, amid a renewal of global interest in space exploration, are at the top of the agenda for the 2,000 space scientists, astronauts, satellite manufacturers and launchers who gathered in Hyderabad.
NASA is due to start sending a series of robotic missions to the moon starting next year to prepare for future spaceflights and do research on the effects of extended space travel on human beings.
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