40 years after the first Moon landing, the International Space Station, now “as large as a four-storey house,” reports David Randall in the Independent, orbits the Earth 15 times a day with 12 men, one woman, seven Americans, two Russians, two Canadians, one Japanese and a Belgian inside.

A far bigger step could soon be taken, however. Specialists are to advise President Barack Obama on whether the US should embark on a 21st-century space programme that could see Americans return to the Moon, and eventually Mars. “The President's decision could instigate a space race with China that might be fiercer than anything seen in its Sixties rivalry with Russia,” notes the London daily. In the meantime, Beijing has declared it intends landing on the Moon by 2020, while Russia has also committed to “a major upgrade of its space capability, the first of the post-Soviet era.”

Apollo 11 veteran Buzz Aldrin argues that America could aid international partners for lunar exploration in order to free up its own resources to develop systems for "even more ambitious goals" such as a manned mission to Mars. Surprisingly, many environmentalists are greeting this news with enthusiasm. While some wonder whether manned exploration is compatible with tackling climate change, poverty, and diseases on Earth, James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory, argues that “any environmentalist who opposes space travel has no imagination whatever.”