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September 10, 2009

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NASA envisions humans on Mars

A NASA strategy proposal shifts the United States human space program away from returning to the moon in favor of a stepping-stone approach aimed at reaching Mars, including using commercial space launch services, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The proposal is not yet official policy but is the US space agency's response to one of five options contained in a review ordered by President Barack Obama of NASA's post-shuttle program that plans to put humans on the moon again by 2020.

A summary of the Human Space Flight Review Committee report, released by the White House on Tuesday, warned however that there could be no meaningful future human space exploration program without enough money supply.

"The US human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources," the report summary said.

NASA already has spent US$7.7 billion of a planned US$40 billion to develop a new rocket and capsule for crew transport to the station and the moon, said Jeff Hanley, manager of the post-shuttle program known as Constellation.

But with the review panel tasked to come up with space strategy options, NASA has drafted a concept proposal called "Generation Mars."

It envisions a 30-year blueprint for developing technologies, staging precursor missions to asteroids and other destinations, and building grassroots support for eventual human expeditions to Mars.


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