In November, the crew of Mars500 are set to be released from confinement when they "return to Earth." The crew of six men (controversially, no women were selected to participate) are currently enduring the confines of a 550-cubic-meter (19,400-cubic-foot) mock spaceship, studying the physiological and psychological impact of an 18 month return trip to Mars.
As I discussed in a recent Discovery News article (read "To Make Mankind Great Again, Push to Mars"), a huge amount of energy is being directed into planning for mankind's "next great step," but politics and money all-too-often gets in the way of any real progress being made.
Perhaps ESA and Roscosmos can sidestep the worst financial issues by combining resources and setting their international sights on Mars. After all, landing a human on an alien world should be an international effort, but whether or not this happens remains to be seen.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Doug Ellison