This NASA handout obtained 01 August 2007 of an artist's concept depicts NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander a moment before its 2008 touchdown on the arctic plains of Mars. NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, the administrator of the US space agency indicated here Monday.
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.
India is planning to conduct 60 space missions over the next five years to achieve multiple objectives in navigation, positioning, advanced communications, space transportation, earth observation and space science, Minister of State in the prime minister's office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan said here Monday.
Inaugurating the 58th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Chavan said the ambitious Indian space programme would unfold huge opportunities for commercial and scientific cooperation among the space-faring nations the world over.
"Our space programme is inspired by the vision of self-reliance and priority to use space technology for accelerating national development. In line with the aspirations of a billion-strong people, our scientists and technocrats have the capability to produce world class satellites and launch vehicles to position them in different earth orbits," Chavan said.
Addressing about 2,000 delegates, including heads of global space agencies and other dignitaries from 45 countries, Chavan said space technology had become an indispensable tool in the quest for progress in economic, social and cultural fields.
"Vantage perspective from space has enabled us to understand the complex processes related to weather, natural resources and earth's environment and its eco-system.
"Our communications and remote-sensing satellites have strengthened our voice-data networks and television broadcasting infrastructure, improved our weather observation methods, disaster-mitigation support and the ability to manage natural resources," Chavan said.
Referring to the multiple benefits of space applications, Chavan said tele-education, tele-medicine and village resource centres across the country had brought about a paradigm shift in India's approach to provide literacy, healthcare and knowledge to the needy, especially those living in rural and remote or inaccessible regions.
"Space applications and technology have begun to play a crucial role in meeting the challenges of education, health services, disaster management and bridging the digital divide between the haves and have-nots," Chavan pointed out.
In this context, the minister called upon space-faring nations to maintain the space environment with an ethical legal framework for the optimal utilisation of space resources and preventing it from becoming another battlefield in future.
"In a world of growing conflicts and terror, protection of space assets is paramount for all. A robust system to protect space assets used for military, commercial or societal applications has to be put in place through legal, technical and cooperative mechanism," Chavan noted.
With advances in space exploration becoming expensive and risky, Chavan expressed concern over the asymmetry in policy and regulatory environment as applicable to commercial space activities in transfer of technology and market access.
"Time has come for a pro-active policy on the dual use of technology, capacity building and equal access to space resources. The space-faring nations should facilitate greater role for private investment in explorations, infrastructure building and technology development, keeping in view the changing policy environment in the post-cold war era," he added.