Humans could set foot on Mars for the first time in the 2040s a French astronaut has predicted after the Perseverance rover successfully landed on the red planet at the end of a seven-month trip from Earth.
Perseverance will spend a Martian year-long mission (670 days) sifting and drilling into the sediments around its landing site, looking for traces of ancient life.
Jean-François Clervoy, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, and founder of weightless flight operator Air Zéro G, believes that the first mission to land humans on Mars is still over 20 years away.
"My best guess for the first manned voyage would be between 2035 and 2040, but probably first without landing, because going to Mars, circling around, studying Mars from orbit and coming back is easier than the same mission in which we add the descent to the surface and the ascent," he told Franceinfo.
"So, in the 2030s, a mission without landing. And perhaps in the 2040s, a first manned mission which will include landing on the surface and ascent into orbit.
"From Mars, astronauts will be able to control rovers from the surface in real time much more efficiently than from Earth."
"That's why on board the International Space Station (ISS), certain experiments by astronauts test remotely controlling robots on the Earth's surface. We're working on what we might do one day from Martian orbit."
Meanwhile scientists at Toulouse's centre d’études spatiales (CNES) - who designed and built the SuperCam instrument - watched with excitement as Perseverance confirmed it had landed safely.
“When I started [work] on the SuperCam, we were already talking about the landing, but it seemed endlessly far away. Tomorrow (Friday) our American colleagues will carry out the first operations, we will know if SuperCam is going well,” researcher Baptiste Chide told La Dépêche.