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here is the article. this was in the indo..

US plans to put men on Mars
Saturday January 10th 2004

A colour ‘postcard from Mars’ . . . American astronauts will return to the Moon in the early part of the next decade as a prelude to sending a manned mission to Mars

THE United States is to establish a permanent manned base on the Moon as a prelude to sending astronauts to Mars, President Bush will announce next week.

Under a sweeping review of the US space programme, American astronauts will return to the Moon in the early part of the next decade, for the first time since the last Apollo landing in 1972.

The blueprint, which President Bush is expected to unveil next Wednesday, will establish a manned mission to Mars as the long-term goal of all American exploration of space, to inject vigour and vision into a programme that has been reeling since the Columbia disaster last February.

A permanent lunar space station is envisaged as a critical stepping stone to Mars, as it would test the technology needed to take astronauts to Mars, to support them on arrival, and get them safely home.

An attempt to land astronauts on Mars might follow within another decade, administration sources said.

The initiative has been widely interpreted as an attempt to provide the President with a ‘Kennedy moment’ that unites the American people behind a great purpose in an election year.

It has deliberate echoes of President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade, to counter the humiliation of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight into space.

Many experts said yesterday that a more appropriate precedent was a speech made by the first President Bush in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, which also promised a return to the Moon and a manned flight to Mars.

That project was abandoned after Nasa estimated the cost at $400bn (€312bn). The bill remains just as steep today. Scientists and politicians said it was barely conceivable that the US Congress would approve such spending at a time when it wants to cut the huge budget deficits that are predicted for the next few years.

The International Space Station, which may be retired if a lunar base is built, will cost at least $100bn (€78bn) to complete, and much of any new investment will be eaten up by the development of a replacement for Nasa’s ageing shuttle fleet.

Experts are also sceptical that the vast technical and human challenges of sending astronauts to Mars can conceivably be met before 2030 at the earliest.

Douglas Osheroff, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Stanford University, who helped to investigate the Columbia disaster, said money would be better spent on cheaper robotic missions, such as the Spirit rover that landed on Mars this week.

“The cost of a manned enclave on the Moon, I think, is going to make the space station look cheap,” he said. “That’s the only good thing about it. I think we’re still 30 years from going to Mars, and if there’s any reason to do that, I don’t know.”

Other scientists are worried that an overriding emphasis on manned missions would divert funds from other Nasa activities, which are more cost-effective and scientifically valuable.

Andrew Coates, of University College, London, said: “My big worry is whether the money for this will be drawn from elsewhere in the Nasa budget. It would be a disaster if this stops robotic missions to explore the rest of the solar system.”

Administration officials said President Bush’s speech next week was likely to be a broad “mission statement” rather than a detailed set of proposals. The President is expected, however, to ask Congress to increase Nasa’s $15bn (€11.7bn) budget by $800m (€623bn) in 2005, and to raise it by five per cent in each of the next five years.

The most probable timetable for flights to the Moon and Mars would see robotic probes and orbiters sent to Mars in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011.

Moon landings would begin around 2013, with a permanent base established in the second half of the next decade. The US would then withdraw from the space station project to concentrate on the Moon and Mars.

* Two further attempts to contact the Beagle 2 Mars probe have failed, scientists said last night.

The British craft’s mother ship, Mars Express, flew over the landing site at 12.50pm on Thursday and 1.27pm yesterday but heard no signal. (© The Times, London)

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