Europe joins race to send humans to Mars

So the ESA might be interested in getting men (or women) to Mars.

“We think it is technically feasible to have a manned mission to the moon between 2020 and 2025 and then to Mars between 2030 and 2035,” said Franco Ongaro, project manager of the European Space Agency’s Aurora space exploration program.

“We need to go back to the moon before we can go to Mars,” he told space scientists, academics and industrialists in London.

ESA’s road map calls for a mission in 2007 to test a vehicle that can withstand re-entry speeds similar to those felt in returning from the moon.

Two years later, the agency’s ExoMars mission hopes to land a rover on the red planet to search for signs of past and present life. Then between 2011 and 2014, a second mission will bring back a sample of the Martian surface.