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Blighty could put a (WO)MAN on MARS by 2040, says sci minister

Not ourselves, you understand - we'd carry China and the US' bags while they did it

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British science minister David Willetts reckons there'll be a human on Mars within 30 years - and Blighty could help to put them there.

Speaking at the end of Prime Minister David Cameron's trip to China, Willetts said that the UK could help to broker a deal between international powers to get the cooperation necessary for a manned mission to the Red Planet.

“If you wanted to bring the great powers together, probably looking a decade or two ahead, trying to get a man on Mars as a shared project between the Chinese, the Europeans and the Americans – it would be very exciting," he said, according to the Financial Times, The Guardian and others.

“Our hunger for discovery isn’t over. And one of the big advantages of the challenge of getting a manned mission to Mars is that it is such a big project that it probably requires global co-operation… I think it is possible within 30 years.”

Willetts was with the Prime Minister on his trade mission to China, where he spoke to his counterparts about cooperation on space exploration.

The country is quickly catching up to the two main space-going nations, Russia and the US, with a lunar rover mission on its way to the Moon and plans to land the first woman there as part of its proposed manned mission to the space rock, as well as ongoing work towards its space station, the Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace.

Willetts said that the UK was "up for cooperation" with China on future projects.

“We are in a very good position… We are trusted partners of America. We are active players in the European Space Agency. And we are now opening up a new relationship with China, because we signed this week a memorandum of understanding for co-operation in space,” he added.

Another avenue for future collaborations is the new five-year Global Collaborative Space Programme, which the UK Space Agency said would initially be focused on "using space to assist in social and economic development". In the Autumn Statement last week, Chancellor George Osborne allocated £80m for the project, which is aimed at getting the UKSA working with more international partners. ®

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