Manned mission to Mars at least 20 years away, easier than first trip to Moon

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

At a global leadership forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong said that a manned mission to Mars is at least 20 years away, but that such a mission will be easier to accomplish than the Apollo missions.

"It will certainly be 20 years or more before that [a manned Mars mission] happens," the former astronaut said.

"It will be expensive, it will take a lot of energy and a complex spacecraft. But I suspect that, even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo Program in 1961," he continued.

Armstrong, who is 75, is known for seldom appearing at public events and for not granting interviews. He commanded the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969, and was the first man to set foot upon the Moon. He left the space program in 1971 to teach aeronautical engineering at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.

The current United States space programme plans to send astronauts back to the moon in 15 years, and then to Mars some time after that. It is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.