Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flight to mars possible after 2035

An interplanetary spacecraft for a flight to Mars will be created not before 2025 and the maiden flight to the red planet will be possible only after 2035, said Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov on Wednesday.

"The possibility of a flight to Mars needs to be combined with the construction of a spaceship having a new nuclear power propulsion unit, which will make it possible to reach the planet in a month," Perminov said in Russia's upper house of parliament.

He said the propulsion unit, which serves the purpose of changing the velocity of a spacecraft in the space, is to be built by 2019.

7.2 billion rubles ($256 mln) are to be allocated as part of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom's innovation development programme from 2010 to 2018 on the joint project with Roscosmos to create a nuclear power unit-based transport module for the future spacecraft.

Answering questions from senators in the Federation Council, the Roscosmos head called flights to Mars on board existing spaceships "absurdity," and added that the prospective flight could only be organised on an international level.

Russia, as well as the US, have been developing technology to produce nuclear-powered spacecraft for decades. Roscosmos and NASA are planning to discuss the development of a nuclear-powered spaceship on Friday during talks in Moscow.

Budget woes force NASA to redraw plans to Mars

Know how to go to Mars cheaply? NASA can use your help.

The space agency yesterday put out a call for ideas for the next Mars mission in 2018.

The fine print, the cost can't be astronomical and the idea has to move the country closer to landing humans on the red planet in the 2030s.

"This is the kickoff," said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.

The race to redraw a new, cheaper road map comes two months after NASA pulled out of a partnership with the European Space Agency on two missions targeted for 2016 and 2018, a move that angered scientists.

The 2018 mission represented the first step toward hauling Martian soil and rocks back to Earth for detailed study something many researchers say is essential in determining whether microbial life once existed there.

Agency officials said returning samples is still a priority, but a reboot was necessary given the financial reality.

In the past decade, NASA has spent USD 6.1 billion exploring Earth's closest planetary neighbour.

President Barack Obama's latest proposed budget slashed spending for solar system exploration by 21 per cent, making the collaboration with the Europeans unaffordable.

A newly formed team will cull through the ideas and come up with options by summer around the time when NASA's latest mission, a USD 2.5 billion car-sized rover Curiosity, will land near the equator on Mars.

NASA headquarters is the ultimate decider of which future projects to fund. Whatever mission flies in 2018, it will be vastly cheaper than Curiosity and will be capped at USD 700 million.