Sir Richard Branson
The entrepreneur - who runs the Virgin Galactic programme, which is planning to launch space tours of Earth in 2014 - is "determined" to populate the 'Red Planet' and thinks it is an achievable dream.

He told CBS News: "In my lifetime, I'm determined to being a part of starting a population on Mars. I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen. I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen."

Branson has already identified the type of people he will need to create the colony, and to be a success he believes there needs to be a balanced mixture of society.

Speaking at the Conde Nast Traveler's Celebration of 'The Visionaries' at Alice Tully Hall, in New York City, he explained: "Obviously, you are going to want scientists initially. You're going to want physicians, you're going to want comedians, you're going to want fun people, beautiful people, ugly people - a good cross-section of what happens on Earth - on Mars. People have got to be able to get on together, because it's going to be quite confined."

The US space agency, NASA, is cutting back its funding and resources and Branson, 62, sees it as a positive development for the private sector, and his aim for Virgin Galactic is to make space travel accessible for people.

He added: "There are only 500 people who have ever been into space. They are the privileged astronauts. We just want to enable people to become astronauts and experience it.

"I think over the next 20 years, we will take literally hundreds of thousands of people to space and that will give us the financial resources to do even bigger things.

"That will give us the resources then to put satellites into space at a fraction of the price, which can be incredibly useful for thousands of different reasons."

"I'll be going up with my children on the first flight next year."