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U.S. space agency chief confident of putting Americans on Mars in 2030s

Xinhua, May 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

U.S. space agency NASA's Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday hailed progress on the manned Mars mission, saying that they are on track to reach the goal set by President Barack Obama five years ago of landing American astronauts on the Red Planet in the 2030s.

"It is my firm belief that we are closer to getting there today than we've ever been before in the history of human civilization," Bolden told the Humans to Mars Summit at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "This plan is clear. This plan is affordable and this plan is sustainable."

Bolden noted that there is "a new consensus that's emerging around this timetable, and around this goal."

Also at the summit, a new report released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory detailed six building blocks needed to carry out a journey to Mars: the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft, a Deep Space Habitat, along with new technologies like solar electric propulsion, entry, descent and landing and a Mars ascent vehicle.

"I'm pleased to report that work is already underway at NASA on four of the six critical elements and the fifth -- advanced propulsion -- is being moved forward through an innovative partnership with American industry," Bolden said.

Specially, the NASA chief mentioned that the Space Launch System's booster passed a major ground test firing in March and that Orion had a highly successful test flight in December.

Meanwhile, NASA will send a lander called InSight next year to study the core of the Red Planet and a new Mars rover, to be launched in 2020, will for the first time cache a sample for later return to Earth.

The U.S. space agency is also working with its European partners on ExoMars, a mission aimed at searching for biosignatures of Martian life.

In addition, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was sent to the International Space Station in March for a special one-year mission designed to understand the potential effects of long-term spaceflight on humans.

"The further we advance and learn and discover, the more our technologies will need to evolve, be upgraded and grow," Bolden said. "They are what will allow us to establish a sustainable human presence on Mars." Endite