Europe, Russia announce joint mission to put boots on Mars first

Oh no you didn't, Europe! The European Space Agency is partnering with Russia's Roskosmos for a manned mission to Mars, and the pair aim to be the first to reach the Red Planet. Space Race 2.0, anyone?

The collaboration isn't quite as random as it may seem. The ESA went in with Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems on the Mars500 project, a 520-day simulated flight to and from Mars, including a landing (pictured above). The six-scientist, all-male team is comprised of three from Russia, supported by Chinese, French and Italian-Colombian members, and is due to "land" back on Earth in November.

The announcement of the joint Mars mission comes from ESA chief Jean-Jacques Dordain, according to Russian news site Ria Novosti:

"Speaking to reporters at an air show near Moscow on Wednesday, ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain said ESA and Russia's Roskosmos space agency would "carry out the first flight to Mars together."

Dordain said it was too early to define a timeframe, but added that the Mars500 project was a factor in the preparation for a real mission to Mars... Experts say a manned journey to Mars is still decades away because of the technological and financial challenges involved.

Of course, the partnership doesn't expressly bar NASA or other space agencies around the globe from taking part, and the announcement of intent is a far cry from tangible, forward-moving plans. As for NASA, the agency has unveiled its own Deep Space Transportation System, which is intended to kick off the agency's manned exploration of asteroids and even Mars as it leaves orbit to private companies, and the Space Shuttle to the retirement home.

Ria Novosti, via PopSci

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