London, Dec 16 (ANI): A new report has said that once the Obama administration takes over, they should set a concrete timetable for human Mars missions, and make sure new hardware developed for NASA's return to the Moon can be adapted for missions to other destinations.
According to a report in New Scientist, though President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has been very tight-lipped, if his administration takes its cue from the preponderance of advice it's getting, then human missions to Mars may well move up in priority.
Back in November, the Planetary Society, a space advocacy group, released a report called "Beyond the Moon", which called for delaying new missions to the Moon and channelling more resources into paving the way for human missions to Mars instead.
Now, an independent group of space experts, led by David Mindell of MIT, is calling for a timeline for human Mars missions, and urging that any Moon hardware be designed with other destinations in mind as well.
The panel's report, called "The Future of Human Spaceflight", calls for a concrete schedule for human Mars missions.
While the new report stops short of endorsing the Planetary Society's plan, it does urge a rethink of where and when to send astronauts.
"The Obama administration and Congress should examine the Bush vision, assess its limitations and provide clarification of the moon/Mars strategy with a timetable for the Mars component," it said.
"Even if it means somewhat easing the 2020 deadline for lunar return, NASA must ensure that the new architecture provides a solid foundation for the next generation of human spaceflight," it added.
It expresses concern that "critical technologies for long-duration missions and Mars landings are not being actively investigated".
Previous reports by the US National Research Council have found that technologies including propulsion, lunar dust mitigation and robot vehicles are being designed for the Moon and not Mars, for example.
The report also said that the US should consider cooperative space efforts with China.
Relations between the US and China have been tense at times, notably in the wake of China's test of an anti-satellite weapon in 2007.
Mindell said that members of the panel met with Obama's transition team last week and gave them a copy of the report. (ANI)