The world's leading space agencies have unveiled a vision for globally co-ordinated space exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The announcement comes on the 50th anniversary of spaceflight when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in 1957.
Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Co-ordination outlines the rationale for society to explore space, and defines the current focus and process of space exploration.
It covers the current interest in returning to the Moon and exploring Mars, and proposes a framework for the future co-ordination of global space exploration.
Representatives from Nasa, the European Space Agency, the British National Space Centre and agencies in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Korea and Ukraine participated in the discussions.
"Space exploration is essential to humanity's future. It can help answer fundamental questions such as: 'Where did we come from?', 'What is our place in the universe?' and 'What is our destiny?'," the document states.
"It can bring nations together in a common cause, reveal new knowledge, inspire young people and stimulate technical and commercial innovation on Earth. The Global Exploration Strategy is key to unlocking this door to the future."
UK Science and Innovation Minister Malcolm Wicks said: "This document marks the start of a new era of space exploration.
"Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, we have learned much about how to explore space and experienced the benefits of scientific discoveries in our everyday lives.
"Innovations such as exploiting space for global communications, weather forecasting and helping emergency services have all flowed from the first half-century of space exploration.
"During this century we are sure to see some fantastic voyages of discovery as robots and humans venture further into our Solar System."
The British National Space Centre is building cutting edge technology to survey the geochemistry of the Moon aboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission which is due for blast off in 2008.
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