LONDON (Nov 29, 1996) -- The U.S. space agency NASA is working on plans to send astronauts to Mars within eight years of getting the political go-ahead for a manned mission, the head of the team was quoted as saying on Friday [Nov 29].
Elric McHenry told the British Broadcast Company (BBC) the agency assigned a secret team of three scientists to the project after announcing earlier this year there was evidence traces of primitive life had been found in a meteorite from Mars.
Team leader McHenry told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "Our goal is to do enough technology work that when we are asked to initiate a human programme we could have humans on the surface of Mars within eight years or less."
The BBC said in a news release that the team was based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Officially, it said, NASA claimed that manned flights were not on the agenda and was relying on robots to find out more about Earth's closest neighbour in the solar system.
But NASA astronaut and moonshot veteran John Young told the programme: "Human beings are great explorers... and it's about time that we started looking around for better ways and making the progress we need to explore the solar system with human beings."
"That's our next goal... not because we want to really, but because we have to."
NASA is due to launch its Pathfinder mission on Monday [Dec 2], which is designed to take a Mars Rover to the planet to look for signs of current or previous life.
A complementary mission to put a Global Surveyor satellite in orbit round the planet blasted off earlier this month.
Original file name: .CNI - NASA.Manned Mars Mission
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