Washington - Seeking to boldly go where few politicians have gone before, ministers and officials from more than 30 space-faring nations gathered here on Thursday to draw up a map to explore the stars.The US State Department hosted the talks, bringing together high-level envoys from both American allies and from countries traditionally seen as rivals in the race to conquer space."We all share a deep stake in extending humanity's reach further into the solar system, advancing innovation further and faster and extending the benefits of discovery to more people in more places," Deputy Secretary Bill Burns said."The question facing us today is whether we can muster the courage and political will to advance space exploration and ensure that co-operation continues to trump competition."Countries such as Brazil, China, Japan, India and Russia have all sent delegations to the first ever such ministerial-level meeting focusing on space exploration.Global co-operationWhile many countries already work together on space projects such as the $100bn International Space Station, the aim is to set out guidelines for global co-operation for future efforts to explore deep into our solar system, and maybe even beyond."As the number of space faring nations increases, as states' monopoly on knowledge and technology erodes, and as commercial interest in space exploration grows, international co-operation will prove more important than ever," Burns said.Heavy demands on over-stretched national budgets mean that "ambitious space exploration programs are beyond the individual capabilities of most countries", said Paul Weissenberg, director general for Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission."Everybody in this room has assets which can serve as elements of a global political partnership," he said, stressing the talks "will contribute to the emergence of convergence in a very pragmatic way".'Investing in tomorrow'"Investing in space today is investing in employment, growth, innovation for tomorrow," he added.Such investments should not be considered a "luxury", but would reap dividends for research, new technologies, medical breakthroughs and job creation, he added."Maintaining a stable human presence in outer space requires a huge scientific, technological, and economical resources," added Enrico Saggese, president of the Italian space agency."These are investments for the future of mankind. Space will be our future, if today we take the responsibility as open-minded explorers to give our consensus without prejudice or limitation for building up an international space co-operation platform for peaceful purposes."