The committee argued for a continuation of the US human space exploration programme and called for long-term focus on Mars as ‘horizon goal’ for human space exploration.

"Our committee concluded that any human exploration programme will only succeed if it is appropriately funded and receives a sustained commitment on the part of those who govern our nation," said committee co-chair Mitchell E. Daniels, who is president of Purdue University in US.

"That commitment cannot change direction election after election. Our elected leaders are the critical enablers of the nation's investment in human spaceflight, and only they can assure that the leadership, personnel, governance, and resources are in place in our human exploration programme," Daniels emphasised.

The technical analysis completed for the study showed that for the foreseeable future, the only feasible destinations for human exploration are Moon, asteroids, Mars and the moons of Mars.

"Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration," Jonathan Lunine from Cornell University noted.

The NASA-sponsored study recommended that US pursued a disciplined path way, an approach that encompasses executing a specific sequence of intermediate accomplishments and destinations leading to the ‘horizon goal’ of putting humans on Mars.

The success of this approach would require a steadfast commitment to a consensus goal, international collaboration, and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation, it maintained.

(Agencies)

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