Nasa aims to put man on Mars by 2037

New Delhi - Nasa aims to put a man on Mars by 2037 and build a space civilisation, Michael Griffin, the administrator of the US space agency told the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in India's southern Hyderabad city, reports said Tuesday.

"We have a long-term plan to put a man on Mars by 2037," PTI news agency quoted Griffin as saying.

Griffin, who made the remarks during an interactive session of space chiefs at the 58th IAC on Monday, also outlined Nasa's ambitious plans for the future that involved building a space civilisation.

"Nasa is looking beyond the moon and Mars into the inter-planetary system," the official said.

"With manned missions to the moon from 2020 onwards and Mars a decade later, we want to build a space civilisation for tomorrow," said Griffin.

He called for greater private investment in satellite and rocket launches for reducing the cost of space transportation and making missions to the moon and Mars commercially feasible.

"As of now, it appears space tourism may be the only way out to make space transportation economical. Though space tourism will generate funds, we have to evolve a mechanism to train the prospective tourists and ensure their safety," Griffin was quoted by IANS news agency as saying.

To attract greater private participation in space ventures, Nasa is aiding select US companies to build a business model to offer orbital transportation services, as cooperation with other space- faring countries may not be economically viable in future endeavours.

US President George Bush had in January 2004 announced plans for the US to return to the moon by 2020 and use the satellite as a launchpad for manned missions to Mars and beyond.

Nasa's Phoenix spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars' northern hemisphere next May to assess whether the red planet can support life.

Discussions at congress are expected to focus on missions to the moon and Mars amid renewed interest in space exploration from 2,000 space scientists, astronauts, satellite manufacturers and heads of leading space agencies gathered at the meet in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, China said it would launch its maiden mission to the moon in November - the third major event in the Chinese space programme since the launch of a satellite and a manned space mission.

"The lunar orbiter is being transported to the launch site and we are looking at a launch sometime in November," China National Space Agency Administrator Sun Laiyan told PTI on the margins of the meeting. China, however, has no immediate plans to send a man to moon.

China's moon mission is divided into three phases. During the first phase when a lunar orbiter is launched, the launch of a moon rover will follow in the second phase and the third phase will involve landing a rover on moon and getting it back to earth with lunar soil and stone samples.

India has already announced that it will launch its first unmanned scientific mission to the moon, Chandrayaan (moon-craft in Sanskrit) next year.

The main objective is to investigate the distribution of various minerals and chemical elements and high-resolution three-dimensional mapping of the entire lunar surface.

The 89-million-dollar project is aimed at expanding scientific knowledge about the moon, upgrading India's technological capability and providing challenging opportunities for planetary research. - Sapa-dpa