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Science

Human flights to Mars still at least 15 years off

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Dreaming of a trip to Mars? You’ll have to wait at least 15 years for the technology to be developed, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) said, putting doubt on claims that the journey could happen sooner.

“If there was enough money then we could possibly do it earlier but there is not as much now as the Apollo program had,” ESA Director-General Jan Woerner said, referring to the U.S. project which landed the first people on the moon.

Woerner says a permanent human settlement on the moon, where 3D printers could be used to turn moon rock into essential items needed for the two-year trip to Mars, would be a major step toward the red planet.

U.S. space agency NASA hopes to send astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s and businessman Elon Musk, head of electric car maker Tesla Motors, says he plans to put unmanned spacecraft on Mars from as early as 2018 and have humans there by 2030.

The ESA’s Woerner said it would take longer.

A spacecraft sent to Mars would need rockets and fuel powerful enough to lift back off for the return trip and the humans would need protection from unprecedented physical and mental challenges as well as deep-space radiation.

Woerner would like to see a cluster of research laboratories on the moon, at what he calls a “moon village”, to replace the International Space Station when its lifetime ends and to test technologies needed to make the trip to Mars. – READ MORE

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