Europe, Russia to launch mission to bring back Martian dirt

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Europe and Russia signed a deal on Thursday for a joint Mars mission to bring back samples of dirt they hope will answer the mystery of whether there is life beyond Earth. Europe had hoped to work with NASA on the two-spacecraft mission but turned to the Russians after the U.S. agency pulled out due to budget shortfalls and a change in direction. The announcement comes amid heightened excitement over the search for life on the planet most like Earth after scientists said analysis from NASA’s own mission rover, Curiosity, showed Mars had the right ingredients for life. …