August 18

Many people believe that the first human to step foot on Mars will be from the U.S.  Well, think again.

Discovery published today an interesting article (“Russia and Europe to Send Man to Mars?”) that challenges the common perception that an American would be first to walk on the red planet.

The article quotes Jean-Jacques Dordain, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), as saying that the ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) would “carry out the first flight to Mars together.”

Russia and the ESA are wrapping up a project in which six individuals simulated a year-and-a-half round-trip to Mars; the team lived the entire time in a cramped 550-cu.-ft. simulated spaceship. The experiment, which will conclude in November, has examined the effects of continuous, close-quarter working on the mind and body.

With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, Russia clearly leads in “heavy lift” rocket technology.  And just this week they unveiled the design of a new manned spacecraft at an international air show.  Bottom line:  Russia and Europe have “the right stuff” — and are doing the right things — to propel them to the goal of Mars.

For the thought-provoking Discovery article, check out

Mars image courtesy of NASA