The race to Mars seems to have toughened a bit with Russia announcing to send a group of monkeys to the red planet by 2017. Earlier, China announced its plans to reach Mars by 2020, while US is still analyzing the requirements that it needs to fulfill for sending humans to Mars by 2030.

The Tech Times reported that a group of experts at the Russian Academy of Science is training a group of rhesus monkeys for the space travel. Rhesus monkeys are known for their high IQ and impressive cognitive abilities.

Four macaques are already being trained at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow for three hours a day. The Morning News USA reported that the monkeys are being taught to control a joystick to target a particular cursor. In addition, the training involves solving mathematical puzzles and tasks.

At the end of the training, the monkeys would be able to complete a set of tasks without any supervision or help. The aim of the training is to enable the four monkeys to train other similar monkeys and recruit them in their team for the mission scheduled for 2017.

"What we are trying to do is to make them as intelligent as possible so we can use them to explore space beyond our orbit," said Inessa Kozlovskaya, the leader of the training team.