A few days ago we told you about the Mars500 crew, six men who have been living in a simulated spacecraft in a parking lot near Moscow for more than 438 days to examine the psychological effects of the 520-day round trip to Mars. Well, all that isolation has paid off: at an air show in Russia this week, the chief of the European Space Agency (ESA), Jean-Jacques Dordain, announced that his agency would team with Russia's Roskosmos to send a crew to the red planet for real.
Dordain didn't offer a timetable, or say which of the agencies would provide the craft for the mission. Still, the announcement raises the spectre of another "space race" like the one between Russia and the U.S. This time, instead of fighting for general supremacy in space exploration, the focus will be on setting foot on Mars, and Russia will have Europe in its corner.
Whoever gets there first, they may find a wetter planet than previously thought. A few weeks ago, new evidence emerged that there is liquid water on Mars, which has raised hopes that there may be life as well. No word, though, on possible sentient - and judgmental - inhabitants.