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.
This December marks one year on from the Paris agreement, where world governments agreed to keep global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius of the average pre-industrial temperature. To mark the occasion, Horizon takes stock of the situation and examines the challenges ahead. We speak to scientists who are mapping a pathway for governments to cut back on emissions, we host a debate on steel - one of Europe’s most polluting industries, and we look the progress of carbon capture and storage. We also interview Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute in Germany, who was the first to propose that 2 degrees should be set as a limit for global warming.
Bacteria may be some of the oldest organisms in the evolutionary tree, but, as Horizon discovers this month, they are inspiring new technologies, from turning sunlight into car fuel to creating building blocks that can repair themselves when cracked. We also hear from scientists using these single-celled organisms to heat our homes, and others who are using them to help trees clean up contaminated soil.
It is very, very difficult to predict when a big earthquake will hit. And we may never be able to forecast precisely the time, magnitude and location of destructive quakes such as those that tore through central Italy in August and October. But our understanding of how they happen is improving dramatically, says Giulio Di Toro, professor of geology in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK.
Billions of tonnes of water are swept up and down Europe’s estuaries and coastlines each and every day. Engineers have been working hard to develop the technologies to tap into this vast store of tidal energy and are now predicting a ramp-up in production from 2020 onwards.
He says we should focus on building houses to withstand them.
Turbines capture the movement of the sea.
The Pacific region can serve as an exemplar of how science diplomacy could work, says Prof. Jean-François Marini.