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Crouch End space mission designer: We could land on Mars tomorrow

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 April 2012

Dr Craig Brown says tthe world has the technology to land a man on the planet Mars

Dr Craig Brown says tthe world has the technology to land a man on the planet Mars

Dieter Perry

A space mission designer says the world is capable of putting a man on Mars tomorrow - but financial constraints mean no one will land on the Red Planet before 2050.

Fresh from working on a Mars space mission which used sophisticated robotic rovers to navigate the planet’s little-known terrain to collect rock samples, Dr Craig Brown said the battle to land the first astronaut on the planet will be the next big space race.

The 30-year-old physicist, who works for the UK’s biggest aerospace firm Astrium and lives in Mountview Road, Crouch End, said: “Mars is the next big target for countries wanting to explore space, but realistically I don’t think a man will land there until 2050.

“The biggest hurdle is money.

“When the Americans put a man on the moon they were spending four per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) on the space programme, it was a massive amount of money. That sort of investment has never been put into a programme since.

Space Exploration: Timeline

* 1961: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

* 1969: Neil Armstrong makes history by becoming the first man to step foot on the moon. An estimated 500million people worldwide watched the moon landing.

* 1981: Maiden voyage of first space shuttle Columbia

* 1986: The Soviet Union open a new phase in space exploration with the launch of the world’s biggest space station, Mir

* 2014: Virgin Galactic anticipate sending the first space tourist into the cosmos. The price of a seat on a rocket will cost $200,000.

* 2015: The deadline set for teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize for teams to make it to the room – a $20million prize to land a robot on the moon and deliver images back to earth.

“The technology is largely there, money is the biggest hurdle. If we had enough money we could put a man on Mars tomorrow.”

The face of space exploration is undergoing a marked transformation.

America, a country which pioneered exploring the cosmos, last week retired its Space Shuttle Discovery leaving them without the capacity to send it’s astronauts into space.

Wealthy entrepreneurs are increasingly bankrolling space exploration, with Hollywood director James Cameron the latest celebrity to announce his interests in the final frontier – mining asteroids for precious resources.

While other countries are scaling back their space programmes, Dr Brown said the UK industry is booming, and that private sector involvement will encourage it.

“The space industry is one of those real success stories that we don’t hear a lot about because not a lot of people realise it has not been hit by the recession,” he said.

“One of the big side effects of space tourism will be the cost of space travel will eventually come down. That will mean that scientists will have cheaper access to space, and that will benefit everyone.”

The first space tourists are set to be launched into the cosmos next year, and Dr Brown said he hoped some of the excitement which surrounded the moon landing five decades ago will be recaptured.

“The moon landing was one of those incredible and pivotal moments in history,” he said.

“People can say that they should have been put into improving education or health services, but there are very few moments in history that showed human achievement reach this peak.”

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