In May next year, Europe will embark on its first mission to explore the Red Planet. The stakes are high – Mars Express aims to detect water under the Martian soil and look for signs of life, living or dead. With a 167m euro price tag, for the space craft alone, scientists cannot afford to make mistakes. The European Space Agency is beginning a barrage of final tests to qualify its craft to enter space. The manager of the assembly and testing phase of the mission, Don McCoy, says a crucial milestone was reached this week.