Nasa chief says man must reach Mars - and expects to see a Brit on the Red Planet

Charles Bolden.

The man charged with getting the human race to Mars has told ITV News he one day expects to see a Brit walk the Red Planet.

In an exclusive interview with Science Correspondent Alok Jha, Nasa chief Charles Bolden said getting to Mars was so important that the human race may depend on it.

Bolden is leading international efforts to get humans on the planet, but when asked to find one word to describe the challenge, he said: "Hard. Mars is really, really hard."

He said space agencies were currently approaching the "walk" stage of their efforts, noting that more technological development as well as a greater understanding of the human body and "how it reacts" to the conditions of Mars.

He added that testing would also have to take place on Earth's moon before astronauts could venture further toward their goal.

Given the international nature of the space effort - India recently put its Mars mission into orbit while the European Space Agency has two expeditions planned - Bolden says he would not be surprised to see a British explorer walk on Mars at some point.

However, he also warned that the decision by previous British governments to withdraw from space exploration should not be repeated - saying space exploration can not be "put on the back burner" and resumed whenever interested.

Nonetheless, he has an optimistic vision: "The UK is a perfect partner to try to venture off into the far reaches of the solar system with."