And I can slide into the weekend happy in the knowledge that I once again belong to a space-faring nation. Well, Europe anyway: it's good that we're part of the flotilla of spacecraft going to Mars (even if Beagle 2's complement of Blur tune and Hirst spot painting might prove problematic if the Martians are Daily Mail readers who like Oasis), but better still that we've got together with the Japanese to send some bits to Mercury. It won't go until 2010 -- when, you may remember, we also have to fix a broken computer drooling into its monolith on Jupiter orbit -- but when it does, it'll have two orbiters to map the planet and a genuine first, a lander. Mercury's not a nice place. It's either extraordinarily hot or hardware-manglingly cold, although there may be small spots near the poles where things are less extreme. The radiation from the Sun is enough to melt a bishop, and the whole place is named after a dead rock star with a dodgy 'tache. None of that matters. Real science is there for the taking, and we're going to take it. Damn the greedbots of industry and the railings of lawyers -- this is the stuff from which history is hewn. Golly, it's hot in here. Perhaps I should go and lie down for a bit. See you next week. Click here to see more of Rupert's diaries.