Americans and Soviets don't know each other well enough yet to explore Mars together, and it would be too risky to attempt such a joint venture now, a new study says.
"The United States and USSR have no prior experience with the degree of cooperation necessary to carry out a technical project of this complexity or magnitude," a committee of the National Research Council reported Monday.The two countries don't have a history of cooperation, relatively few lines of communication and little knowledge of the other's technical and management practices, the report said.
"The demonstrated stability of the relationship is such as to at least raise concerns at this time about relying on the consistency of the relationship over a period of a decade or more into the future," it added.
In view of those risks, the panel recommended instead that the two nations follow "a graceful path" of coordinated but independent exploration. That, it said, would lead to increasingly close levels of cooperation.
The report appeared to chill the idea frequently advanced by space experts that Mars be explored jointly by the Soviets and United States, using robotic vehicles that would scoop up soil and rocks and bring them to Earth for study.