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By David Derbyshire Last updated at 11:47 AM on 16th July 2008 Ever since Victorian astronomers pointed their telescopes towards Mars and wrongly believed they had discovered canals, mankind has been obsessed by the red planet. Now these astonishing new images - captured by a European spacecraft in orbit around Mars - are helping to fuel that fascination. They show in astonishing detail a network of giant valleys, vast plains and towering waterfalls carved into the surface of our neighbouring planet, millions of miles away.
For thousands of years, the human race has spread out across the Earth, scaling mountains and plying the oceans, planting crops and building highways, raising skyscrapers and atmospheric CO2 levels, and observing, with tremendous and unflagging enthusiasm, the Biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply across our world's every last nook, cranny and subdivision. An invitation. Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars. The question is, do you want to join us?