WASHINGTON: Landing astronauts safely on Mars is one of the biggest technological hurdles for any future manned mission to the Red Planet, even more complicated than last year’s daring rover touchdown.

Nasa dazzled observers by landing the one-ton Curiosity rover on Mars in August in a high-speed operation using a sky crane and supersonic parachute, but experts say the task would be even more challenging with humans onboard.

“The Curiosity landing was an amazing accomplishment,” said Robert Braun, a former NASA engineer now at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “But it’s really a baby step that we needed to take, on the way of one day walking on the Mars surface,” he said at a conference in Washington on Tuesday.

The three-day meeting, which started Monday, has brought together Nasa experts, university researchers and members of the aerospace industry for talks focused on exploring the neighboring planet.–AFP