The world may see a manned spaceflight to Mars in the first half of this century, a prominent Russian academic said on Monday.
"I think [a manned trip to Mars] will take place in the first half of the current century," Anatoly Grigoryev, the deputy head of Russia's Academy of Sciences, told a news conference in Moscow dedicated to the findings of a simulated mission to the Red Planet concluded last year.
A somewhat similar timeframe was suggested by U.S. President Barack Obama in April 2010, when he said it should be possible to send humans to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s and return them safely to Earth.
In July 2002, Grigoryev, then the director of the Institute of Biomedical Problems which ran the Mars500 project, pledged to a manned mission to Mars by 2015.
The grueling 520-day mission was completed in November last year.
It aimed to find out how humans would cope on a long-duration spaceflight.
The Mars500's six crewmembers - three from Russia and one each from Italy, France and China - said that although it was at times difficult to cope with isolation, they were ready to take part in the real mission.
But scientists have warned there were problems, such as the dangers associated with space radiation, which could not be simulated in the project and which have yet to be resolved in order for the manned Mars flight to go ahead.