Sending complex pieces of machinery to faraway celestial objects? Not an easy thing. The European Space Agency is well aware of what can go wrong, especially after the demise of Schiaparelli lander when it stacked into Mars earlier this year. No sweat, says the ESA, which will continue on with its ExoMars 2020 mission... flush with cash.
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In case Schiaparelli's crash-landing left you thinking the European Space Agency's ExoMars mission was a bust, rest assured it wasn't. The mission's scientific workhorse — its Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) — is performing beautifully, as evidenced by the first images and splashes of data ESA has now received back from the Red Planet.
If we ever get proof of past life on Mars, it will come in the form of biosignatures, fingerprints that could only have been left by living organisms. We're a long way from finding that smoking gun evidence, but an analysis of silica minerals discovered by NASA's Spirit rover pushes us one step closer. Because of their similarity to silica deposits shaped by microbial life on Earth, these intriguing Martian minerals are now being called a "potential biosignature".
National Geographic's new TV miniseries Mars has a message for the people of Earth: Colonising the Red Planet is not a pipe dream. In fact, it's achievable within a generation. Unfortunately, in the first few episodes at least, that message smothers the show's ability to tell a good story. Mars is much more enjoyable when it's not trying to cram facts, figures and carefully scripted interviews down our throats.
Placed on Earth, it would stretch from Washington DC to New York to Denver. Larger than the Grand Canyon, wider and deeper than East Africa's Great Rift Valley, Mercury's newly-discovered "Great Valley" boggles the imagination. But it's more than size that makes this geologic feature remarkable. The Great Valley may be our best evidence that Mercury's entire crust is contracting.
It will be a while before we can actually colonise Mars (no matter what Elon Musk says). But when we get there, an official tartan will be ready for the outfits.
This weekend, National Geographic's Mars: The Live Experience is touring Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, with astronaut Buzz Aldrin and scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency talking about the future of space and humanity's goal of reaching Mars — what many believe should be our goal as a civilisation and the potential for the continued survival of the human race.
Before the shows, we sat down with Professor Mark McCaughrean, a senior science advisor at the ESA, to get his take on what the Agency does, what it sees as the future of missions to space, and how it works with governments and private sector space companies like SpaceX.
Video: This planet of ours, it ain't gonna last forever. And though who the heck knows what's going to happen to the world that far off into the future (or even after November 8), Life Noggin decided to conduct a little brain exercise about how we could convert a planet like Mars or Venus, or a moon like Europa, into a second Earth.
Hopes of another successful landing on Mars were dashed last week when the Schiaparelli probe went missing in action during its descent onto the Red Planet.
NASA's Mars Reconaissance Orbiter (MRO) has acquired new high-resolution images of the crashed Schiaparelli lander, following its ill-fated attempt to reach the surface of Mars in one piece. The images confirm that the lander had a very hard fall, and raise new questions about the exact nature of the crash.
Elon Musk made it pretty clear than anyone hoping to colonise the Red Planet has made a tactic agreement to be a blood sacrifice to SpaceX. Fine, no one said space travel was safe. But the survivors have a new danger to consider: Space brain.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk revealed his plan to make humanity a multi-planetary species by building an express train to Mars. There are a lot of open questions about how this will work, technically speaking, and who will pay for it. But there's another fundamental issue that must be addressed before anybody can reserve a seat on the first spaceship out: Is going to Mars even legal?