RUSSIAN scientists have admitted that they are training monkeys for an ambitious mission to Mars – and it leaves in just two years.
However, the foot might be that of a macaque, if all goes according to plan.
The news is just the latest sign that the old Cold War foe is ramping up its efforts to edge ahead in this century’s new space race.
Earlier this month, the Russian space agency announced that it would launch a new manned mission to the moon, with the plan of setting up a permanent human settlement within the decade
The animals are being trained for three hours a day so they can travel safely into space alone
Experts at the Russian Academy Of Science in Moscow are preparing the four rhesus macaques to make the flight in two years.
The animals are being trained for three hours a day so they can travel safely into space by themselves and eventually land on the Red Planet by 2017.
The monkeys are rewarded with a drink of juice if they perform well
When they complete the task successfully they are rewarded with a sip of juice.
At the end of their training the monkeys should be capable of completing a daily schedule of tasks on their own.
Monkeys helped pave the way to the Moon – and Russians are hoping they’ll do the same for Mars
Animals have long been used to test out conditions in space before humans have a go
Macaques typically have a lifespan of around 25 years, so it is hoped there is enough time to train them properly and for them to survive the six-month trip to Mars.
The scientists even hope the monkeys themselves could teach others macaques the skills needed to fly the mission.
Leading expert Inessa Kozlovskaya said: “What we are trying to do is to make them as intelligent as possible so we can use them to explore space beyond our orbit.”
NASA are hoping to reach Mars by the 2030s while China is also setting out an ambitious project to be the first to land on Mars.