As the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission begins its six-month journey to the planet, we talk to its director-general Professor Jan Woerner about drilling into the Martian surface and pose the crucial question: is there life on Mars? We also find out how scientists are recycling historic data to create a virtual reality simulation of the planet’s terrain, and explore some of the obstacles to a crewed Martian mission.
Sending astronauts to Mars poses several large challenges, among them a long journey filled with life-threatening radiation from cosmic ray exposure and solar flares. Not to mention the fact that we haven’t yet worked out how to get them back again.
This month, Horizon explores the weird and wonderful world of 2D materials. We talk to researchers revving up for a nano car race on a track the size of a flu virus, and others who are splicing atom-thick layers to create materials with on-demand properties. We find out how one scientist is bending and stretching 2D materials to create ultra-small sensors, and discover some of the other potential applications creating a buzz, including energy storage and high-power computing.
In August, we look at the social impact of mega events such as the Olympic Games, the links between sports and society, the benefits of high-intensity interval training, and how, one day, part of your football boots could have scored a winning goal at the World Cup, if shoemaker adidas gets its way.
Measuring energy fluctuations in the nucleus of a rare radioactive element could improve the accuracy of GPS from metres to centimetres, while marbled volcanic magma is being used to create eruption countdowns, thanks to groups of European researchers who are pushing the boundaries of timekeeping.
Geochemical stopwatches may also predict volcano eruptions.
SOFT Prize winner Jonathan Naish has developed a virtual reality system.