It's been an exciting few years for proponents of space exploration. NASA's roadmap to Mars, the success of New Horizons and Rosetta, China's expanding space capability, and now this - Russia and the ESA collaborating to put astronauts on the Moon by the end of the 2020s.

It's going to take a lot of work to get there - lifter technology needs dusting off, a lunar lander needs to be built, tested in LEO, tested in translunar flight (and possibly an unmanned landing) before finally the astronauts take humanity's first steps back on the Moon since 1972.

From there? Roscosmos and ESA scientists are certainly proponents of colonisation, with plans to collaborate with China for a station in lunar orbit and potentially even colonies on the lunar surface. And all this may serve to spur the USA's space ambitions ever higher, driving the political will and public support necessary to support NASA's ambitious plans for Mars.