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Scientist doubts US plans for Mars

15 January 2004

MAINZ – A prominent American-born German scientist expressed scepticism Thursday about the plans announced by US President George Bush to send manned missions to the planet Mars.

Professor Guenter Lugmair of the prestigious Max-Planck Institut in Mainz called Bush’s plans “somewhat too optimistic” and to be viewed in the context of this year’s presidential elections.

Lugmair, head of the institute’s part in the current US robot probe on Mars, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: “From a purely scientific standpoint, the returns as measured against the immense costs would be relatively thin.”

He also cited the limited US financial means in his scepticism about the plans by Bush for manned stations on the moon by the year 2020 and then for missions to Mars.

“You have to consider that manned space travel is immensely expensive,” said Lugmair, who heads the Max-Planck Institut’s department on cosmochemistry.

Also, the infrastructure and technology are not yet advanced enough to make it possible for humans to travel to Mars in the foreseeable future, he said.

Even for the more relatively simple concept of shuttle trips to the moon, not all the infrustructural and technological questions have been resolve, Lugmair added.

“There are still so many unresearched aspects about manned space travel,” he said. He cited such questions as the cosmic radiation which astronauts would be subject to, and the problems of muscle deterioration during a lengthy voyage to Mars.

“This isn’t just a small leap to the moon,” he said in comparing the distances involved.

Subject: German news