However, scientists have acknowledged there are massive obstacles, both in terms of human physiology and current technology, blocking mankind’s path to the stars. Speaking on Tuesday, Alexander Bloshenko, Executive Director for Long-Term Programs and Science at Russia’s state-owned Roscosmos, said the Red Planet represented the best hope of establishing bases on another planet in Earth’s neighbourhood.

Mars looks most preferable today

He added: “The studies of the Sun show that it is getting hotter while the temperature on Venus and Mars is growing slowly and this is one of the reasons why Mars looks, perhaps, most preferable today from the prospect of terraforming the creation of Earth-like conditions on the planet and colonisation.”

In the long term, Mr Bloshenko said it would be vital to branch out into the galaxy.

With that as a long-term goal, Roscosmos was preparing for missions to both the Moon and Mars, he added.

Venus, while superficially similar to Earth in terms of its size, is not generally believe to be a suitable candidate.

But Mr Bloshenko stressed there might be a small possibility, high above the planet’s surface.

He explained: “The conditions potentially ‘attractive’ for colonisation are present on Venus only at an altitude of 50 – 65 km: here the planet’s atmosphere most of all resembles that on Earth by its temperature, pressure and gas structure.”

However, he also suggested human beings would need to evolve significantly in order to live in a Martian environment, suggesting such pioneers would be of different “genotypes” to those now found on Earth.

The question of whether there is life on Mars has preoccupied mankind for generations and Mr Bloshenko suggested answers may be in the offing.

He said: “Possibly, the next stage of the ExoMars joint Russian-European mission whose launch is scheduled for 2022 will shed light on this issue.

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“The program envisages landing on Mars a rover equipped with a drilling device that is capable of getting in the Martian subsurface layer, and also a miniature laboratory to look for signs of life.”

Mr Bloshenko also suggested if mankind were to look further afield, outside the solar system, radical new technologies would be necessary to propel such missions.

Anticipating a breakthrough “during our lifetime”, he added: “The issue of radically increasing the speed of movement in outer space can be resolved through the development of engines based on new physical principles.”

Mr Bloshenko’s comments come a week after the publication of a study in the scientific journal Nature last week indicating huge rivers one criss-crossed the surface of Mars.

Author Matt Balme told Express.co.uk: “The more we look for evidence of water and clement environments in the geological record of Mars’s ancient past, the more we find it.

“I am 100 percent convinced that parts of Mars were once more than suitable for life to thrive in – whether life ever started on Mars is a different question – the BIG question that we are all trying to answer.

“This is why we spend money and time on missions like the ESA ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover that will launch in 2022 and is specifically designed to search for the chemical signatures of life.

“Mars is probably as good a place to look for extra-terrestrial life as any, and has many advantages: we know that in its past it was more Earth-like in terms of rock, minerals and liquid water being available (all good for life!).

“It’s relatively easy to explore (compared to drilling into the ice crust of an outer planet satellite), and we can realistically expect to collect samples from Mars and return them to Earth for study within realistic time and budget constraints.”

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