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Manned Mars mission likely in 2018

Though, NASA doesn't plan on putting humans on Mars until the 2030s, they are still trying to put the first lander on the red planet in 2018 to get a better idea of its physical and atmospheric characteristics.

Larry D. James, deputy director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, while speaking at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) headquarters in Bangalore, gave an exciting insight into the research at NASA and the collaborative efforts going on with India and Israel on the planetary missions to the red planet.

Propulsion systems, satellite components, payload developments, spacecraft, radars, et al are being jointly taken up with the help of companies in India, Spain and Israel. The US space agency has already tested one of its latest spectrometers on an Indian airplane and a series of flight tests has shown positive results.

NASA has also been doing extensive research in earth sciences by having an orbiting lab from space to look into the earth's atmosphere, study the water cycles, soil moisture, glacial movements and so on. James is sure that space 'low orbit' travel will become a reality in 2018 as quite a few private companies have been working on the rocket systems.

James said that NASA will be studying the "Icy moons" of Jupiter and Saturn and will be the forthcoming planetary missions after the next 'lander' is put on Mars.