Forget about the Constellation missions to Mars, because the first Earthlings set to arrive to the Red Planet may be monkeys: macaques from the Sochi Institute of Medical Primatology, who may get back as fully grown primate overlords, or just prove that humans would be able to resist the 17-month trip in weightlessness and isolation, suffering a pureed food diet, like in 2001 in a spaceship not much bigger than Hasbro's 2.5-foot Millennium Falcon.
These monkeys gone to heaven, who are bred at the Sochi Institute only for this purpose, have been used in previous space experiments. Unlike Laika, who died because of the stress of the launch, these monkeys resist the trips and get back in one piece. Like 16-year-old space veteran Krosh, who flew to space in 1992 and—according to the BBC—"is still in rude health." Which we guess means he keeps healthily pooping out and throwing his crap to everyone around.
The macaques will have to be able to sustain a 520-day trip and they are crucial for the survival of the future cosmonauts, as their tolerance to radiation levels is very similar to those in humans. [BBC]