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.
There could have been life under the surface of Mars, according to Prof. Jan Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), which in March is launching its ExoMars mission to find out.
Dumped waste, from used nappies to industrial by-products, have long wound up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to decay. In October we speak to the scientists figuring out how to keep such items in use to reduce rubbish and create a so-called circular economy. We learn about new efforts to mine industrial waste for the rare metals that go into making aircraft parts, pacemakers and bicycle gears, and find out about the culture shift needed to develop a zero-waste society. We also speak to the researchers building a biorefinery to turn soiled nappies into fertilisers and raw materials, and look at whether seaweed could become the next plastic.
The model of our universe as expanding at an accelerated rate has given rise to theoretical constructs such as dark energy and dark matter, which scientists believe could make up 95% of the universe. In September, Horizon takes a deeper look at what we really know about the expanding universe. We speak to Prof. Subir Sarkar, who believes that the Nobel-winning discovery that universe expansion acceleration could be a fluke, and the scientists who are trying to answer the question by allowing us to better measure the expansion rate. We also look at the significance of accurately measuring gravity in deep space, and what dark matter haloes can tell us about the existence of dark energy.
To avoid climate breakdown, eliminating fossil fuels is the easy part, according to Professor Johan Rockström, co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He says that safeguarding biological resources such as water, soil and biodiversity will be the ultimate test of whether global warming targets can be reached.
As wind turbines become increasingly familiar sights along shorelines, developers of offshore floating platforms, which harness the powerful winds further out to sea, are seeking to establish their technologies as a major viable source of clean energy.
Climate expert says real challenge is safeguarding biological resources.
Floating wind turbines could be a clean energy game changer.
A circular economy needs new business models and reusable products, says Felipe Maya.