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s ed pe it cia io l n

Learn About n Rockets n hyperloops n spacesuits n Terraforming n the moon n base camps n the future!

world of mars then tomorrow and now

From solar cities and space drones to interstellar travel, meet the future tech that’s set to change everything

space tourism

How has the Red Planet changed over the past 4 billion years – and has it ever supported life?

terraforming mars


hyperloop travel

3d-printed habitats Martian colonies

Discover how humanity is preparing for Life on Mars (with a little help from HP)

FIND OUT MORE At The first 10,000 registrants will access the Fusion Mars 2030 VR game

Citizens of Earth! O ur future depends on you – dreamers, futurists and problem-solvers – to preserve our way of life. You are invited to collaborate in a ‘universe-changing’ design, architecture, engineering and virtual reality project. Powered by HP Z Workstations and NVIDIA® Quadro® graphics, along with your favourite Autodesk 2D and 3D design software, we will imagine, design, and experience a sophisticated civilization on Mars. A new home for 1 million human Martians. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, humans will thrive on Mars. HP Mars Home Planet is a global mission to unite engineers, architects, designers, artists and students to

design an urban area for 1 million people on Mars – and bring it to life in VR. HP and NVIDIA are bringing the greatest minds in the world together for a first-of-itskind collaborative effort to explore humanity‘s future on Mars, in VR. With the creative and technical guidance of Technicolor, co-creators will use Unreal Engine to bring the 3D models to life and create a virtual reality simulation of what life on Mars could be like. Join HP Mars Home Planet for a chance to win great prizes, collaborate with some of the world’s leading visionaries, and earn a chance to have your design included in the ultimate Mars VR Experience. | 03


Worlds of discovery in your How It Works Special Edition

HP Mars Home Planet


Everything you need to know about the HP Mars Home Planet project. This is your chance to help create a new home for 1 million humans on the Red Planet and contribute to the world’s first and greatest crowdsourced VR experience.

Race to Mars


It’s the 21st century space race and the end game will see humans walking on Mars. Find out about the rival projects aiming to get there first and the spacecraft that will transport them. Discover what we already know about the Red Planet and how the Moon can act as a stepping stone – both for the journey and our plans when we get there.

f o r f u t u re f u si o n Senior Editor Lee Hart Art Director Stuart Hobbs Creative Director Mark Donald Account Manager Charlie Scott Director of Content Marking Clare Jonik

04 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

f or hp Head of Fusion Procurement and Production Matt Eglinton Production & Procurement Manager Abi Dougherty Contributors All the team at How It Works magazine

Worldwide Product Development and AEC Segment Manager Sean Young Worldwide Media and Entertainment Segment Manager Rick Champagne

Content Curation Dylan Young, Cameron Young

Life on Mars


How has the Red Planet changed over the past 4 billion years – and what will happen once humankind touches down for a new life on Mars? From the robots that have given us all of our insight into this unforgiving world to the search for signs of life and the plans to terraform the planet, here’s your complete guide to our new home away from home.

World of Tomorrow


It may be ‘next stop: Mars’ but life on Earth is going to be pretty good too if this future tech is anything to go by. Ec0-cities, flying cars, the Hyperloop, space tourism and more are all heading our way, so buckle up and get ready to explore the world of tomorrow.

© Copyright 2017 HP Development Company, L.P. The information herein is subject to change without notice. Cover image includes: Biosphere 2 at The University of Arizona. How It Works Special Editon: HP Mars Home Planet is published on behalf of HP by Future Fusion, a division of Future Publishing Ltd. Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath, BA1 1UA, England. Companies/individuals included in this publication does not imply endorsement by HP or the Publisher. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the consent of HP. | 05

Creating a new home for 1 million humans on the Red Planet

06 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet


very civilization needs the resources and skills of all its inhabitants. From artists to architects to engineers and students, bring your unique vision to our future home planet. Maybe you spend your free time drafting plans for an ideal smart city. Perhaps you dream of creating an otherworldly experience in VR. The key requirement? Imagination and the ability to give concrete form to your ideas. In the Mars Valley Urbanization Challenge, participants will have access to Autodesk design

software to build 3D models of buildings, cities, vehicles and infrastructure. In the Mars VR Experience, participants will use Unreal Engine to bring the 3D models to life, with the creative and technical guidance of Technicolor, and create a virtual reality simulation of what life on Mars could be like. Participants can register at The first 10,000 registrants will have access to a download code for the Fusion Mars 2030 VR game. | 07


MARS VR EXPERIENCE THE MISSION Beginning on July 31, 2017 with the help of earthlings everywhere and technical leadership from Technicolor, we will collectively endeavour to create the world’s first crowdsourced Mars VR Experience – depicting the lives of 1 million humans living on Mars.

showcased at the Technicolor Experience Center (TEC). The Technicolor Mars VR Experience is a community-based crowdsourcing effort, not a competition, but prizes will be awarded to outstanding contributors who go above and beyond the call of duty, as determined by our judges.

Our starting point is 40 square kilometers of high quality Mars terrain from the Fusion Mars 2030 VR project. The terrain modelled by the Fusion team is based on real NASA-supplied terrain data and imagery from the Mars Valley region of Mars.

All who participate in the Mars VR Experience will forever have the glory of being a key contributor to the world’s first and greatest crowdsourced VR experience.

Fusion will contribute their Mars 2030 terrain model, complete with Mars environment (gravity, soil, sol, and even dust storms), in the form of Unreal Engine files. Technicolor will offer creative and technological support to help complete projects. HP Mars Home Planet will be

THE PHASES • Terraforming and game mechanics: Aug 1, 2017 - Feb 1, 2018 • Development of built-environment: Feb 1 - May 1, 2018 • Final production: May 1 - Aug 1, 2018

Contacts Have a question, comment, concern or great idea? Send it to For specific questions regarding the HP Mars Home Planet Education League, please send inquiries to

08 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

HP Mars home planet Education league Today’s students are critical to the future urbanization of Mars. Their ideas and designs are based on the latest curricula for engineering, architecture and design technologies – they are tomorrow’s professionals for Earth and beyond. The cool designs they create in HP Mars Home Planet could be used by future generations in Mars Valley! Across the globe, universities participate in the HP Mars Home Planet Education League to create unique solutions in a global community of future professionals. Show your competitive edge on the HP Mars Home Planet leaderboard and see how your school stacks up against the competition.

The HP Mars Home Planet Education League offers a great opportunity for students to work alongside professionals and other universities, with access to resources such as master classes, video links and Mars factoids. These educational institutions are recognized as leaders in math, science and technology. If you’re interested in joining the HP Mars Home Planet Education League, contact You can also join the HP Mars Home Planet Education League as a student ambassador. Sign up at and you’ll receive exclusive access to tools and resources.

HP Mars Home Planet is presented by… | 09



Sometime, in the not too distant future, 1 million humans will live in Mars Valley (Mawrth Vallis), on the planet Mars. Your mission is to imagine, design, and visualize the cities, homes, buildings, shelters, school buses, bicycles, cars, shopping malls, electrical, water, sewage infrastructure, amusement parks and ski resorts that will exist to support the 1 million humans living there.

Create a visual image depicting your invention for a smart city/region on Mars supporting life for 1 million humans. Submissions can be anything from scanned napkin sketches with crayons to 3D renderings. Submit a bitmap image accompanied by a text description (math encouraged!). Design whatever inspires you in the built environment, from cutlery to cars to skyscrapers to entire city plans.


This is your opportunity to shape the future of life on Mars, so tap into your imagination, skills and experience to conceive and illustrate a product, vehicle, building or ecosystem that forms the living and working ecosystem for 1 million humans.

• Submissions are bound by the physical constraints of Mars, including Mars gravity, soil, terrain, air, cosmic radiation, need of water supply, etc. • Submissions must propose a solution to support a productive and happy life for 1 million Martians.

08 || How 10 HowItItWorks: Works:HP HPMars MarsHome HomePlanet Planet

TIMING Submission: July 31 - Sep 15, 2017 Validation: Sep 16 - Oct 6, 2017 Judging: Oct 7 - Nov 3, 2017



Create a 3D model depicting your invention for a smart city/ region on Mars that supports life for 1 million humans. The submission requirement is a 3D model from any CAD or 3D modelling software, along with a bitmap image depicting your model (rendering or screenshot).

Create a still, animated, real-time, or VR rendering depicting your invention for a smart city/region on Mars that supports life for 1 million humans. The submission requirement is a bitmap image, video, or real-time executable, along with the source 2D/3D files.

Again, you can design whatever inspires you in the built environment to help form the living and working ecosystem for 1 million humans.

TIMING Submission: March 26 - April 25 2018 Validation: April 26 - May 18 2018 Judging: May 19 - June 8 2018

TIMING Submission: Nov 14, 2017 - Jan 8, 2018 Validation: Jan 9 - Feb 2, 2018 Judging: Feb 3 - March 2, 2018

Find out more Get full details on the HP Mars Home Planet project – including judging criteria, awards categories, nonchallenge contributions and more at | |09 11

Recordbreaking rockets

y r u t n e c t s e 21 How the l l i w e c a r spac s to the get u anet Red Pl Life in Mars orbit

Martian colonies

p14-21: Race to Mars The competitors, the rockets, the base camp and more! Here’s everything you need to know about the plans to get humans to Mars.

p22-23: Spacecraft testing How the European Space Agency checks spacecraft before launch.

p24-25: anatomy of a spacesuit The kit that allows astronauts to survive the extremes of space.

p26-31: living on the moon The scientific benefits of colonising the Moon and how it could be a stepping stone for a voyage to Mars. | 13

race to mars


umanity has long dreamt of sending people to Mars, but it’s often felt like something perennially beyond our reach. However, it might very well become a reality in the near future thanks to the work of a select few visionaries. When the Apollo missions to the Moon ended in 1972, many felt that Mars was the next step. But instead the decision was made to develop the Space Shuttle and, later, the International Space Station (ISS), and remain in the Earth’s orbit. Manned missions to Mars were shelved. But in the last decade or so, Mars has been put back on the agenda. Helped by recent discoveries that suggest it was once habitable, there’s a renewed clamour to get people there and, among other reasons, find out if we are alone in our Solar System, let alone the universe. Up to now, progress has been slow. NASA has tried and failed to start a Mars programme before called Constellation, but this was scrapped in 2009 in favour of a new plan. Now, NASA’s goal is to get humans there by the 2030s. And the last few years has seen a number of private companies springing up with the same ambitions too. At the forefront is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who in September 2016 revealed a bold plan to send 1 million people to Mars over the next 100 years. The dream of going to Mars is very much alive. As you’ll see through this feature, it might not be long before we start wondering what’s next…

14 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission went to the Moon in 1972, no humans have travelled beyond low-Earth orbit

The competitors

Mission to Mars

The contenders hoping to win the race to Mars

The key steps in the journey to the Red Planet

It’s estimated that it will cost NASA over $100 billion to send people to Mars

September 2016 SpaceX Musk’s masterplan SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reveals his plan to send 1 million people to Mars within 100 years using the ITS rocket.

Autumn 2018 NASA Space Launch System


SpaceX was founded in 2002 to revolutionise space travel

SpaceX The company run by Elon Musk has a rather ambitious goal of beginning manned flights to Mars by 2024 or 2026. The company wants to build a mammoth rocket that can take 100 people to Mars on each trip, with the ultimate aim of having 1 million people on Mars just a century after the first launch.

Over 4,000 people applied for Mars One’s proposed one-way trips to the Red Planet

NASA will launch its huge new rocket, the Space Launch System, for the first time. This will be an unmanned mission.

December 2014 NASA Unmanned Orion On 5 December 2014, NASA launched its Orion vehicle for the first time, on a Delta IV Heavy rocket. The unmanned flight lasted around four hours.

“The dream of going to Mars is very much alive” 2031 Mars One One-way This is the proposed launch date for Mars One’s first crewed mission to Mars, but it looks unlikely they’ll achieve this goal at the moment.

2024 SpaceX First SpaceX mission In 2024, SpaceX is hoping to launch its first manned mission to Mars on the ITS, after a number of unmanned test flights before.

2026 SpaceX Next SpaceX mission If its first launch is successful, SpaceX plans to launch a human crew to Mars in every available launch window – every 26 months.

2021 NASA Orion crew This is the earliest expected date for NASA to launch a crew on its Orion vehicle for the first time – an integral part of a future Mars mission.

2026 NASA ARM NASA plans to launch its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), where a crew on the Orion vehicle will rendezvous with an asteroid that has moved into lunar orbit.

2030+ NASA Phobos At some point in the 2030s, NASA is aiming to put humans in orbit around Mars, possibly landing on its moon Phobos, but not necessarily on the Red Planet itself.

© NASA/JPL-CALTECH; SpaceX; Thinkstock

The world’s most successful space agency has long had its eye on manned missions to Mars, going back to the days of the Apollo missions. But progress has been slow, with the plan now to send humans there in the 2030s. Much will rely on continued support for the development of a new spacecraft and rocket being built by NASA.

SpaceX hopes to beat NASA to Mars

Mars One This Dutch-led company gained notoriety when it proposed sending people on one-way trips to Mars in the 2030s funded by a reality TV show. The early hype has died though, and the company looks unlikely to succeed, but it’s another example of the growing plans to put people on the Red Planet.

2039 NASA Humans on Mars By the end of the 2030s, NASA hopes to finally put people on the surface of Mars. It’s a lot later than SpaceX’s plan, but it might be a more realistic time scale. | 15

race to mars

Why Mars?

Our galactic neighbour has always fascinated us It’s a question almost as old as the ambition of getting there in the first place: what’s the point in going to Mars? Well, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, it satisfies our human desire to explore. Around the world, humans have always pushed beyond their boundaries. Now, the next logical step is space, and with the Moon already being graced by us, Mars is the obvious (and easiest) next step. Mars also holds tremendous scientific value. Excitingly, it is now believed that the Red

Planet may once have had conditions that could support life – and it may still do today. We have sent many rovers and orbiters to Mars, but none can match the skills and versatility of a human. It’s often said that humans on the ground could replicate everything the rovers have done in a decade in a matter of days. And if Mars does host life, isn’t finding out we’re not alone one of the greatest reasons of all to go? The technologies required to send people to Mars will be immense. It will almost certainly

be a global undertaking, with many potential spinoffs into the fields of medicine, psychology, engineering and many more. Perhaps most importantly of all, though, going to Mars could ensure our survival. One day, Earth will face a doomsday scenario such as an asteroid impact, or failing that, the eventual death of our Sun. Perhaps the only way to secure the future of the human race will be to permanently colonise another world. Mars could become that new home.

The Red Planet

Polar ice Mars has vast amounts of frozen water and carbon dioxide on its surface, particularly at its poles. The northern cap spans 1,100km, while the southern cap spans 400km.

What makes the fourth planet of our Solar System so intriguing?

Subsurface water


Between the equator and its poles, Mars is thought to have a large amount of ice under its surface, perhaps holding more water in total than Lake Superior in North America.

Recent research suggests that the Northern Hemisphere of Mars may once have held more water than the Arctic Ocean. Evidence of ancient shorelines still exists on Mars.

Habitable Today, the surface of Mars is mostly dry. But throughout its history it may have gone through multiple periods of wetness, with a thicker atmosphere more conducive to life.

Surface water In September 2015, NASA revealed that liquid water may have been found to have flown on the surface of Mars, in the form of tiny trickles called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), but this has not been confirmed.

Atmosphere The atmosphere of Mars has today mostly been blown away by the Sun. But it may have been much thicker about 4 billion years ago, before Mars lost its magnetic field for unknown reasons.

One-way missions

In 2012, Mars One caused controversy when they announced plans for one-way trips to Mars. A debate about the ethics of such journeys soon began. Mars One’s reasoning is as follows. Rather than spending a lot of money developing technology to take people there and back, they could save money by keeping people on the Red Planet. They would be largely self-sufficient, but regular resupply missions would ensure they don’t meet a premature end.

16 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Of course, there are a few problems with this, not least potentially sending people to their deaths. The cost of these resupply missions, and maintaining the colony, is likely to far outweigh the savings in not coming home. SpaceX, for its part, is now considering something similar. But rather than sending a handful of people like Mars One, it wants to have a fully functioning colony of 1 million people on Mars’ surface by 2124.

Mars One stirred up a debate about the idea of one-way missions to Mars

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Three countries have launched manned missions to space on their own: the United States, Russia and China

The next space race

Competition between the US and the Soviet Union helped get humans to the Moon

How the effort to go to Mars compares with putting humans on the Moon President John F Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962 lives long in the memory. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” he famously said. By 1969, that goal had been achieved. We haven’t quite yet had the same momentum with our Mars efforts, but we are making progress. The Apollo programme was supported by the Mercury and Gemini missions, which were tentative steps designed to see how humans coped with prolonged

Moon vs Mars

spaceflight. In the modern era, the best analogue is the International Space Station. For more than a decade and a half, the ISS has been used to test out long-term spaceflight of a similar length needed for a trip to Mars. It’s also been a great testing ground for a self-sustaining crew in space. Prior to humans landing on the Moon, we needed to test various technologies. This included sending humans on a test orbit around the Moon, and practising various rendezvous techniques in Earth’s orbit.

“Cooperation is going to be key”

Moon distance The Moon is an average of 385,000km from Earth, a stone’s throw compared to Mars.

How getting to Mars differs from going to the Moon


Moon launch Missions to the Moon can take place at any time, as the distance between it and Earth doesn’t change much.

For the Mars missions, NASA is planning something similar. It’s hoping to use its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to practice using its Orion vehicle in deep space, before a potential mission to Mars’ orbit in the early 2030s – perhaps with a crew landing on the Martian moon Phobos.

Moon journey The journey to the Moon took about three days in each direction for the Apollo missions.

earth Mars launch Missions to Mars would feasibly only be able to launch every 26 months, when the two planets are at their closest point.

Team effort It’s unlikely one company or nation will send humans to Mars alone. Cooperation is going to be key, and we’re already seeing the first signs. NASA has been busy enlisting private companies to help with the construction of its Mars architecture. American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is building the command module for the Orion spacecraft, while Boeing is helping NASA build the huge Space Launch System rocket. Other nations are likely to play a part too. Looking to the ISS, there are 15 countries working together, comprising the US, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the eleven member states of the European Space Agency. It’s likely that a similar cooperative effort might be undertaken for missions to Mars, perhaps including Japan, China and SpaceX too. With a cost in the tens of billions of dollars it will be difficult for one nation, or private company, to go it alone – although Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to do just that.

Mars journey The journey to Mars will take at least six months, although Elon Musk thinks SpaceX can get this down to 30 days eventually.

mars Depending on both planets’ positions in their respective orbits, Mars can be anywhere between 400mn km and 55mn km away from Earth.

The ISS is a shining example of international cooperation | 17

© NASA; Shutterstock

Mars distance

race to mars Space

Blast off!

The rockets that will take humans to Mars To get to Mars you’re going to need a big rocket. So it’s a good thing that NASA and SpaceX are working on just that. On the NASA side of things, we’ve got the Space Launch System (SLS) coming in at a cost of $18 billion. The plan at the time of writing is to develop two versions of the rocket, the larger of which (called Block 2) will be the most powerful rocket ever built – more powerful even than the Saturn V rocket that took humans to the Moon. A first launch of the smaller version, called Block 1a, is expected to take place towards the

SLS vs ITS Comparing these two

massive launch vehicles

end of 2018. This will send an unmanned Orion capsule on a flight around the Moon. A few years later, a crew will be sent on a mission to lunar orbit (Orion can seat a maximum of six). Beyond this though, there are no firm plans. The idea is that in the 2030s one or multiple SLS rockets will be used for a return trip to Mars. Some have suggested the powerful rocket could also be used for quicker unmanned missions to other destinations in the Solar System. As for SpaceX, they have two large rockets in development. The first is the Falcon Heavy, which will mostly be used by paying customers

to take satellites and unmanned spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit and beyond. Their much bigger rocket, revealed in September 2016, is the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), also known as the Mars Vehicle. The ITS is absolutely mammoth, dwarfing even the larger version of the SLS rocket. In early concepts, the rocket will launch with a large vehicle on top that could take 100 to 200 people to Mars on each trip. The rocket itself will land back on Earth, ready to be used again, while the vehicle would travel on towards Mars on its own.

Height NASA’s SLS Block 2 will have a height of just over 111m, making it less than a metre taller than the Saturn V.



Spacex’s its

The entire SLS rocket will weigh 3mn kg at the time of lift off.

Thrust SLS will have a lift-off thrust of 4.2mn kg.

Height The ITS will be the biggest rocket ever, built at 122m tall.

“To get to Mars you’re going to need a big rocket. So it’s a good thing NASA and SpaceX are working on just that…” 18 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Weight Payload The ITS will be able to take up to 550,000kg into orbit.

The weight of the ITS has not been confirmed, but we do know the booster is designed to land back on the ground, unlike the SLS.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Inspiration Mars, a hopeful private company, once planned to send a couple on an orbit around Mars in 2018

How the ITS works The launch system behind SpaceX’s plan to send 1 million people to Mars 3 4



2 7 6

Humans will be able to collect data from Mars much faster than rovers and probes have

1 Launch

3 Orbit

Between 100 and 200 people will be launched on the ITS.

The crew vehicle will dock with a fuel tanker in orbit.

2 Reusable

4 Journey to Mars

After launching, the booster will return to the ground.

Payload SLS Block 2 will be able to take 130,000kg into orbit.

SpaceX propose that the journey to Mars

could eventually be as short as 30 days.

With a lift-off thrust of 13mn kg, the ITS will be far more powerful than any other rocket built before.

A propellant plant will turn Martian water and CO2 into fuel.

5 Mars landing The entire vehicle will land passengers on Mars. It will generate 1,700°C as it enters the atmosphere.

Inside Orion


6 Propellant

7 Return The vehicle will return to Earth, ready for another trip.

Docking A docking adapter will allow Orion to dock to other vehicles, such as the SLS or a deep space habitat.

How NASA’s Mars crew capsule will work

Crew Up to six people will be able to travel inside the Orion spacecraft.

Size comparison

How SpaceX’s rocket stacks up to NASA’s 122m



A heat-shield will protect the spacecraft during Earth re-entry.

The capsule will have basic life-support and cargo capabilities.

Purpose The vehicle is designed for launch, long travel durations and re-entry. | 19

© NASA; SpaceX; Illustrations by Alex Pang

Big Ben

Saturn V


SLS Block 2

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System

111.3m 111m

race to mars

The Mars Base Camp Lockheed Martin’s plan to put humans into Mars orbit Sending people to Mars will probably not be a single-mission endeavour. We will likely need other missions to prepare, such as test missions to Mars orbit, or even supply missions to the surface of the planet. An agency like NASA wouldn’t be too keen on sending people to Mars and having them fend for themselves – it would be wise to have some sort of infrastructure in place beforehand. With this in mind, Lockheed Martin unveiled its plan for a Mars Base Camp in 2016. The idea basically revolves around building an ISS-lite in Mars’ orbit. This orbiting laboratory could be visited by Orion spacecraft, and used by astronauts to study Mars and control rovers on its surface. The latter is known as telerobotics, and has been proposed as a way to speed up Mars exploration. There is a lag of tens of minutes when controlling a rover on Mars from Earth, but that would be reduced to just seconds from Mars’ orbit. Lockheed Martin’s proposal would involve beginning construction of the Base Camp first in cis-lunar space (near the Moon). The company say that NASA could use this as a place to dock its Orion spacecraft and, in 2023, astronauts could practice controlling rovers on the surface of the Moon. Then, in 2027, the entire station would be relocated to Mars. By 2028, it would be ready for humans to visit, and it could be used as a staging outpost for trips to the surface in the 2030s. Whether NASA will adopt the plan remains to be seen. But it’s an enticing one as it lays out a steady roadmap for Mars exploration. Unlike SpaceX’s plan, it also seems quite realistic. The technologies are not beyond our reach, and it builds on things that have been done before.

Explore One of two Orion vehicles could be used to explore the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

Fuel tanks Liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel will be stored in these tanks.

Mars Base Camp Building a space station in orbit around Mars

Habitat The station would have space for astronauts to live and work in.

“Sending people to Mars will probably not be a single mission” It will cost around $16 billion to prepare Orion for its first manned mission, scheduled for the 2020’s

20 | How It Works

Laboratory Here astronauts could conduct experiments and control rovers on Mars.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Some theories suggest that by melting the ice at the poles of Mars, we could turn it into an Earth-like world

Hibernation One of the problems with getting to Mars is working out what to do with the astronauts on the way. With a journey time of up to several months, the astronauts will need to keep fit, ready and alert. One possible way to do this is to have a rotating section to simulate Earth’s gravity. But another way is to put the crew into hibernation, an idea that NASA has funded research for. A small crew could be unconscious for two weeks at a time on a rotational basis, with one person always staying awake for a brief time. Every two or three days, that astronaut would go into hibernation and another would wake up. While asleep, the astronauts would be kept at temperatures as low as 32 degrees Celsius – down from our more regular 37 degrees Celsius – to slow their metabolisms.

Other potential exploration strategies involve setting up Martian moon bases on Phobos or Deimos

Radiators Like the ISS, the station would have radiators to expel heat into space.

US company SpaceWorks Enterprises Inc are investigating the feasibility of induced hibernation for space travel

Orion The Mars Base Camp would have two docking ports for two Orion vehicles.

A home on Mars?

One major criticism of the Apollo missions was that there were no plans to keep people on the Moon permanently. The longest mission on the surface, Apollo 17, was about 12 days and we have not been back to the Moon since. Many are keen for Mars exploration to not simply be a series of ‘boots on the ground’ missions, but rather a plan to keep a base or colony on the surface. It’s unclear which route NASA is favouring at the moment, so time will likely tell what they are aiming for. As for SpaceX, we know that they want to have a massive colony on the surface in the next 100 years or so. They envisage sending 100 people or more at a time and reusing their rocket for multiple trips, eventually leading to a colony of 1 million people on Mars. Elon Musk has also touted the idea of terraforming Mars and making it liveable for humans, but that’s a story for another day.

The spacecraft’s power would come from large solar arrays.

© Lockheed Martin; SpaceX

Solar arrays

Propulsion A cryogenic propulsion stage would move the spacecraft from lunar orbit to Mars.

SpaceX wants to have a colony of 1 million people on Mars in around 100 years | 21

race to mars

Testing the limits of spacecraft Take a look inside the European Space Agency’s high-tech testing facility


he European Space Agency (ESA) brings more than 20 countries together in pursuit of space travel, and its largest facility can be found at Noordwijk on the west coast of the Netherlands. The European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) is the high-tech hub of the operation, responsible for making sure that all spacecraft and their payloads are fit to fly. Travelling to space is a challenge. Spacecraft are exposed to extreme speeds, extreme temperatures, and extreme vibration. They will enter a vacuum, undergo weightlessness, and be pummelled with radiation, so before the spacecraft set off into these unforgiving conditions, the ESA team needs to make sure that they are ready. More than 2,500 people work at ESTEC, designing the blueprints for new missions, developing new technology, and checking every spacecraft before launch. Each new item needs to be tested, and the facility is equipped to mimic the stresses of outer space as closely as possible. The self-contained facility was specially designed to allow spacecraft to move from one area to the next, undergoing a sequence of tests to ensure that they are ready to fly. All the rooms are kept behind airlocks, ensuring that the craft remain clean and protected throughout their stay. Inside the centre’s various rooms, the equipment is shaken, spun, blasted with sound, frozen, bombarded with radiation and exposed to a vacuum. Each room is specifically designed to test a different aspect of the launch and space-travel process. For instance, the Large European Acoustic Facility acts like a giant music speaker, blasting satellites with the kind of volumes they will need to endure at lift-off. Next, the craft may be exposed to the extreme temperatures of space for a period of several weeks. While the spacecraft and components undergo rigorous tests, the Data Handling Systems collect and analyse information from hundreds of sensors. Once they have passed every challenge that the Test Centre throws at them, the spacecraft are ready to make the dangerous trip into space.

22 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Large Space Simulator This room mimics the vacuum of space, bombards craft with radiation, and freezes them to temperatures far below zero.

Inside the Test Centre

A network of rooms allows spacecraft to be rigorously tested before they go into space

Electromagnetic compatibility facilities These rooms are shielded from external radiation, allowing the electromagnetic emissions of the spacecraft itself to be tested.

The ESA Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle being shaken and stirred

Hydraulic shaker This shaker, known as HYDRA, can simulate the vibrations of a major earthquake.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The ESTEC building’s foundations were dug 25m down to make the building stable enough for rigorous tests

Datahandling rooms Shakers are used to put spacecraft through the intense vibrations that they will experience during launch.

Adjacent rooms allow data to be analysed straight away, streamlining the testing process.

Compact Payload Test Range This area allows satellites and other payloads to be tested in conditions that mimic those experienced in orbit.

Pushed to the limit The Test Centre is equipped with an impressive arsenal of kit designed to test spacecraft and their payloads to breaking point. Physical properties machines weigh and measure the equipment, determining the centre of gravity and the moment of inertia. This can help to ensure that everything is balanced if the spacecraft needs to spin in flight. Electrically powered shakers put the equipment through the intense vibrations of launch, while a hydraulic shaker is on hand for larger, heavier equipment. The Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF) bombards satellites with intense sound, up to 156 decibels, to ensure that they will still be able to function after launch. And the most impressive room in the facility, the Large Space Simulator, plunges test equipment into a space-quality vacuum, complete with freezing temperatures and radiation that mimics the dangerous emissions of the Sun Throughout testing, sensitive equipment gathers data about how the spacecraft are performing, ensuring that they will be ready for the real thing.


Faraday cage

The entire facility is kept sealed and clean to prevent damage to the spacecraft.

Metal on the walls, floors and ceilings continuously conducts electricity to screen out external radiation.

Large European Acoustic Facility This spring-mounted, soundproofed room hits test vehicles with an intense wall of noise to simulate launch.

The Herschel Space Observatory inside the LEAF acoustic testing chamber

Sound proofing The walls of the sound chamber are 0.5 metres thick, and made from steel-reinforced concrete to keep the sound contained.



Foam wedges absorb sound and radio signals, creating ‘anechoic’ rooms | 23

race to mars

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tests his spacesuit at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

Anatomy of a spacesuit How this incredible device allows astronauts to survive the extremes

24 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

and water vapour are also sent back to the PLSS; the carbon dioxide is then removed by reacting with lithium hydroxide, producing lithium carbonate and water. The water vapour condenses and is also removed and stored in the pack, while oxygen is recycled back around the suit for the astronaut to breathe. Sometimes, spacesuits are referred to as an astronaut’s own

personal spacecraft. If an astronaut on a spacewalk (also known as extravehicular activity, or an EVA) finds themselves drifting off into space, then the modern NASA spacesuits have a device called the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, or SAFER for short, which is composed of little manoeuvring jets that can fly them back to the space station.

Spacesuits in numbers -160 to +120 degrees Celsius

Spacesuits protect astronauts from the extreme temperatures outside the ISS.

145kg 1961

The very first spacesuit – the SK-1 – was worn by cosmonaut and first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

$12 million

The most recent spacesuits each cost in the region of $12 million to manufacture.

With the life support system attached, a spacesuit weighs in at around 145 kilograms. The suit alone weighs about 55 kilograms.


Spacesuits are required beyond an altitude of around 19,000 metres to supply the oxygen needed to breathe and maintain a constant pressure around the body.

© ESA; Getty


pacesuits are an astronaut’s life support system, providing them with oxygen, keeping them warm and protecting them from the vacuum of space. They provide communications with fellow astronauts and mission control, monitor their health and are sealed against the harsh environment outside. One of the most important parts of any space suit is the backpack: the Primary Life Support System, or PLSS. It’s more than just an oxygen pack – it keeps the suit pressurised to prevent hypoxia (caused by the decrease in oxygen within the blood stream), removes harmful carbon dioxide and cools the suit by pumping water around it. It also houses medical monitors and the communication equipment. The PLSS life support system is a closed loop, so everything is recycled. Inside the suit the astronaut wears a skin-tight Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment, which removes body heat through perspiration. Oxygen, carbon dioxide

DID YOU KNOW? Astronauts have to breathe pure oxygen for a few hours before stepping out the airlock for a spacewalk

Design details An essential piece of clothing for space travel, each part of a spacesuit has an important job…

Helmet with visor The helmet features a visor coated with a thin layer of gold to filter out harmful solar rays.

Build a spacesuit Spacesuits do not come in a single piece, but are built from several pieces that are fastened together: the upper torso, the arms and the lower torso assemble.

Toilet break While in the middle of a spacewalk you can’t just pop to the loo, so a spacesuit contains a ‘maximum absorption garment’ – a fancy name for a nappy!

Gloves Space is so cold that the fingertips in an astronaut’s gloves contain miniature heaters. The gloves are made to be dexterous while providing a strong grip.

Dexterity Spacesuits have to provide astronauts with a range of motion for when they are working outside of the space station.

Ventilation garment

Footwear The boots on current spacesuits are soft and not really made for walking, just floating. New boots will have to be designed for going back to the Moon or Mars.

The Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment is made from skin-tight Spandex and worn beneath the space suit. It contains over 90 metres’ worth of tubing to remove and recycle body heat, carbon dioxide and perspiration.

Life support system The life support system contains oxygen tanks as well as a battery for power, water-cooling equipment and a fan for essential air circulation. | 25

race to mars

Living Moon

on the

How we could turn craters into colonies for human life


he Moon is our closest neighbour but only 12 people have ever set foot on its surface. Since 1972, the only visitors have been robots, orbiters and probes. For a long time there was little interest in going back, but at just three days journey away from Earth, the Moon is an obvious target for further investigation. With more countries establishing their own space programmes, and an increasing number of private companies entering the field, interest in the Moon is growing once again. The environment on the Moon’s surface is hazardous, but if we can find a way to construct a base we would gain access to a wealth of off-world resources. It is a prime location for telescopes and communications equipment,

26 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

and its unique environment could hold clues to the history of the Solar System. The Moon’s potential has been recognised by organisations across the world, and there are now several exploratory missions in development. At the moment, these are focused around finding out more about the Moon’s potential, but over the next few decades, manned missions and even base construction could be on the agenda. Russia’s Roscosmos are planning a series of Luna-Glob missions as a starting point for establishing a robotic base, and in collaboration with the European Space Agency, they are hoping to scope out the Moon’s south pole in 2019 and 2020. The China National Space Administration are developing a series of Chang’e probes to collect lunar samples in

preparation for future mining missions, and they are building a shuttle capable of lifting human astronauts to the Moon. What’s more, in 2007, Google launched the Lunar XPRIZE, encouraging private companies to land rovers on the surface by 2017. Even NASA, who has chosen to focus their resources on manned missions to asteroids and to Mars, are developing a probe to map the water deposits on the lunar south pole. At the moment, we are just taking our first tentative steps towards further exploration of the Moon, but in the future a science fictionstyle base on the surface could become a reality. We explore what such a lunar outpost might look like, and what hazards and challenges could get in the way….

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The last person to have set foot on the Moon was Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan in 1972

Why the Moon? With preparations already underway for manned missions to Mars, some might question the logic behind a return to the Moon, but a lunar outpost could bring several advantages. A trip to the Moon and back could be completed in under a week, and the surface is rich in resources. Lunar dust contains hydrogen, oxygen, iron and other metals, and if these resources could be mined, it could provide a close off-world source of water and building materials. The far side of the Moon is shielded from the noise of Earth’s communications, providing a quiet vantage point for looking out into the universe, and the near side has a constant view of the surface of our planet, making it an ideal place to set up monitoring stations. Navigational support could also be provided for a variety of operations, from search and rescue on Earth to deep space exploration. A base on the Moon would also allow us to look closer at its geology, which in turn would help us uncover more about its history and the evolution of the Solar System. Experiments could be conducted, and materials and equipment could be tested, away from the familiar conditions on Earth.

Colonising space

A lunar base could perform many different functions, from mining to communications

Stepping stone Establishing a base on the Moon would be a big step towards colonising Mars.

Lunar holidays With space tourism barely in its infancy, it might seem a bit premature to consider the idea of holidaying on the Moon, but if humanity were to establish a base up there, visitors would almost be inevitable. The company Space Adventures has already sold two $150 million tickets for a trip to visit the Moon in 2018, and more private organisations are looking to set up their own tours. Rules set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty state that the Moon cannot be claimed by any country, even if they have set up a base there. However, laws regarding the exploitation of the Moon and its resources for commercial gain have not yet been fully established.

A base on the Moon could pave the way for a new kind of holiday

Mining and excavation The Moon is rich in resources and could be used for construction or to make fuel, oxygen and water.

Space outpost The Moon’s location and lack of atmosphere make it a good place for communications equipment and sensitive telescopes.

Exploration Refuelling

Large vehicles could be used to carry explorers away from established bases to explore the Moon.

The low gravity on the surface would allow spacecraft to land, refuel and take off much more efficiently than on Earth.

Technical testing | 27

© ESA_Foster + Partners; NASA

Building a protective habitat on the surface of the Moon will test technologies to their limits.

race to mars

How to build a base The Moon has little atmosphere and none of the protective shielding that we enjoy here on Earth. As a result, the surface is hostile. It is pummelled by solar winds, scorched by radiation, and chunks of rock regularly fall from the sky. The ground is coated in the shattered remains of ancient asteroid impacts, forming a thick layer of sticky dust, and with no atmosphere or weather to wear the particles down, the grains are razor sharp. A successful base would need protection against all of these threats, and, for people to stay there long-term, it would also require a steady supply of food, water, oxygen, power, shelter and rocket fuel. One of the most popular concepts for a lunar base is inflatable housing – lightweight and easily assembled by pressurising from the inside. With the airlock from the landing capsule used as a door, these structures could provide a quick and simple solution to setting up a base. However, a puncture could prove catastrophic, so the pods would need to be shielded in underground chambers or beneath piles of Moon dust. Flat-packed panels could also be shipped in from Earth to build sturdier dome or hangar structures, but it would be much more fuelefficient to use building materials found on the surface of the Moon. When heated, lunar dust can be transformed into a tough solid that could be used to construct buildings and roads, and 3D printers could one day be used to make structures from the regolith. In the right location, solar panels could provide renewable power for the base, and, if plants are able to grow on the Moon, it could one day be possible to set up a semi-sustainable farming and composting system. Then, if water, oxygen and hydrogen (rocket fuel) could be extracted from lunar dust, a base might even be able to become self-sufficient. Unfortunately, there are still major challenges to overcome before we reach this stage, not least the devastating effects of lunar dust. The dust seems to find its way inside even tightly sealed spaces, causing rapid damage to equipment. There are some ideas to get around this, including cable cars or covered transport tubes to minimise the disturbance on the surface, and clean rooms and air locks to keep inside spaces dust-free.

Inflatable habitats are light but vulnerable to asteroid impacts

Buildings coated in Moon dust would be shielded from impacts and radiation

Dust from the Moon could be used as a material for 3D printing

Excavation equipment would need to resist the damaging effects of fine dust particles

“Solar panels could provide renewable power for the base� 28 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? NASA held a Regolith Excavation Challenge to encourage engineers to built robots that can dig up lunar soil

Permanent shade The north pole is smoother than the south pole, but parts of it are in constant shadow.

Craters Craters near the poles could provide protection against solar wind.


Where to build?

Solar winds have left rich helium-3 deposits near the equator, providing a potential source of clean energy.

Choosing the right spot could mean the difference between success and failure

Smooth terrain The surface near the equator might be easier to land on, but the temperatures here vary by hundreds of degrees.

near side

Far side

Lava tubes Caverns beneath the surface of the Moon could provide shelter from radiation, space weather and temperature changes.

Water ice


There is frozen water locked away near to the Moon’s north and south poles.

The equator is in darkness for 14 days at a time, but some places near the poles are in near constant sunlight.

The Apollo missions landed close to the Moon’s equator, where the surface is smooth and entering orbit is easy, but these regions have serious problems with temperature control. The Moon turns on its axis once every 28 Earth days, so daytime at the equator lasts for two weeks, and temperatures climb to more than 100 degrees Celsius. For the other two weeks, the same spot is plunged into total darkness and the surface cools to 150 degrees below freezing. These wide fluctuations could pose real problems for buildings and equipment, and

with sunlight absent for days at a time, solar power would be intermittent. Facing head on to the Sun and with little in the way of atmosphere, the equator is also blasted by radiation and solar winds. At the poles, night and day are less dramatic. The surface is rougher, but certain areas receive sunlight for most of the year, and the temperature remains more stable at around zero degrees Celsius. There is also water ice trapped at the poles, which could provide gases, fluids and even rocket fuel.

One promising location is Shackleton Crater, which is found at the Moon’s southern pole. It receives sunlight for around 80 per cent of the year, which could provide a near constant source of electricity from solar panels. Building a base near the equator would be more challenging, but underground habitats could provide enough protection in more exposed locations. Lava tubes like the Marius Hills pit could offer ready-made shelter from temperature fluctuations, solar wind, radiation and surface dust. | 29


Location, location, location

race to mars Inflatable habitats Building materials are heavy, so one option is to use inflatables. These would need to be protected from impacts.

What would a lunar colony look like? The Moon is not a safe place for humans – a base will be essential for survival

Water supply Water could be extracted from lunar dust by heating it with hydrogen gas.

Launch and landing The gravity on the Moon is low, so launching and landing spacecraft requires much less fuel than it does on Earth.

Telescopes and equipment Away from the interference of Earth’s atmosphere, a lunar base could house powerful telescopes.

30 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Radiation shielding Buildings would need to be protected from radiation. A popular idea is to bury them under layers of moon dust.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The Moon is an average distance of 384,400km away, equal to about 30 Earths lined up side by side

Oxygen Water extracted from the lunar surface could be split into hydrogen and oxygen using a technique called electrolysis.

Glass roads Microwaves could be used to melt the dust on the surface of the Moon to produce smooth, tough roads.

“Only a handful of people have visited the Moon’s surface, and the longest stay lasted three days” Food

Flatpack buildings

Farming resources would need to be transported to the Moon, but waste could then be recycled to keep plants growing.

Buildings could be constructed using geometric frameworks shipped in pieces from Earth.

Mining operations The dust – or regolith – could be mined for use as a building material, or to make oxygen, water and rocket fuel.

Humans have been living in space since the 1970s, falling around the Earth inside orbiting space stations like Salyut, Almaz, Skylab, Mir and the International Space Station (ISS), but no one has been in orbit for longer than 438 days (the record set by Valery Polyakov), making the long-term success of space colonies hard to predict. Over 200 astronauts and cosmonauts have lived on the ISS, and by monitoring them closely we have learnt a lot about the effects of microgravity on the human body, but the Moon is a different environment. Only a handful of people have visited the surface, and the longest stay lasted for only three days. The Moon has a sixth of the Earth’s gravity and comes with its own unique challenges. The dust that coats the surface could prove one of the most difficult problems to overcome. During the Apollo missions, the sharp particles found their way into equipment, through vacuum seals, and even inside spacesuits, irritating the eyes and lungs of the astronauts. Permanent settlements on the Moon will only be possible with proper protection | 31

© DK; Dreamstime

Home away from home



How we’ve explored the Red Planet – and what’s coming next

p34-41: life on Mars Find out how our discoveries about Mars so far are preparing the way for manned missions and – ultimately – colonisation.

p42-43: colonising mars From spacesuits to spaceships, housing to terraforming, this is the tech that will help us make a home on the Red Planet.

p44: Farming on alien planets How humankind could hit paydirt when it comes to growing crops with Mars soil. | 33

life on mars


n September 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced a bold plan to colonise Mars with humans. It made headline news around the world and – while there are understandably some critics – it has once again raised the prospect of exploring Mars. Today, Mars is a barren, inhospitable world. With an atmosphere that’s 95 per cent carbon dioxide, temperatures as

low as -153 degrees Celsius and no magnetic field, it’s not exactly a habitable location. But several billion years ago, we’re pretty sure Mars had vast amounts of water. We can see evidence for this in what appear to be valleys carved by rivers, empty lakebeds and even coastlines. The big question remaining about Mars is whether life could have existed there, or still does. It is unclear how long the planet had surface water for, and it may not have been long enough for life to thrive. But it’s possible that primitive, microbial life might have taken hold.

A brief history of Mars How this world turned from habitable to deadly

4.5 billion years ago Formation

4.5 to 4.1 bn years ago Pre-Noachian

4.1 to 3.7 bn years ago Noachian

The planet Mars forms, along with the other rocky planets in the Solar System.

A little-known period of Martian history when the planet was likely pounded by asteroids.

Volcanic activity thickened the atmosphere, causing rain, forming valleys and lakes we see remnants of today.

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Particle problems

Sincemay NASA’s now Apollo be coming 17 mission out of went an ice to age, the Moon as there in 1972, is evidence no humans thathave its polar travelled ice caps beyond are melting low-Earth orbit DID YOU KNOW? Mars

Two upcoming missions, the European ExoMars 2020 rover and the American Mars 2020 rover, will be endeavouring to answer this question. These two rovers are an exciting precursor to what looks set to be the era of Mars exploration. At the moment, NASA is hard at work on a new spacecraft and rocket that will take people to Mars in the 2030s. Their goal is to further the exploration of the human species and, perhaps, create a permanent base on Mars. Then Musk came along in September 2016 and threw a spanner in the works. He said he was working on a giant rocket that, beginning in the 2020s, would start transporting people 100 at a time to Mars, with the goal of a million people settled there by the turn of the century. Mars is back on the agenda and even if there has never been life there before, if all goes according to plan it seems there soon will be: humans are homing in on the Red Planet.

Mars then and now

How has the Red Planet changed over the past 4 billion years?

“We’re pretty sure Mars once had vast amounts of water”

The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of microbial life on the Red Planet

Water A thick atmosphere and magnetic field may once have allowed water to exist on the surface.

No magnetic field Without a magnetic field, the surface of Mars is subjected to intense solar and cosmic radiation.

Thin atmosphere Today, Mars has a relatively thin atmosphere, making the pressure too low on the surface for liquid water.

Scientists have recently observed what appear to be ancient coastlines on Mars.

Martian seas

No surface water

Recent evidence suggests the northern hemisphere of Mars once had more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean.

Any water that was once on the surface has long since boiled away, but some may remain underground.

3.7 to 2.9 bn years ago Hesperian

2.9 bn years ago to present Amazonian

Today Present day

Much of Mars’ surface water turned to ice as temperatures dropped during this period.

Over the past few billion years, a thinning atmosphere left much of the planet smooth, dry and devoid of geologic activity.

Mars is now a cold and barren world, with only hints of its ancient water remaining. | 35

© NASA; Thinkstock


life on mars

Robots on Mars How NASA is using robotic explorers to uncover the Red Planet In July 1965, NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft conducted a flyby of the Red Planet, returning the first ever images of the Martian surface. Since then, we have learned a huge amount from these robotic missions – and perhaps it won’t be too long until humans are there, too. When NASA first started sending missions to Mars, scientists were unsure what they’d find. But over time, they have been able to paint a picture of what this world once looked like. The goals of the missions have changed too, from those of initial discovery, to more refined searches for life and water. NASA’s Viking landers arrived in 1976 and were the first dedicated probes to search for life. Results were inconclusive, but a fire was stoked in Martian exploration by returning the first images from the surface itself. However, following several failed attempts, it would be another two decades until the next successful Mars mission. NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor launched in 1996, and between 1998 and 2006 it extensively mapped the surface and provided much of the data needed for later missions. Excitingly, it also provided evidence for water ice on Mars. The first rover arrived in 1997. Sojourner analysed rocks on Mars and found similar features to Earth. In 2004, the wildly successful Spirit and Opportunity rovers also landed, with the latter still active on the surface today. In 2012 we said hello to the Curiosity rover, which landed in Gale Crater, and has since discovered this location likely contained an ancient lake. 2014’s MAVEN mission, meanwhile, has helped us discover how solar winds destroyed the Martian atmosphere. But there’s still much more to learn – and that’s where ESA and NASA’s amazing next generation of Martian rovers comes in.

Searching for signs of life How the upcoming ExoMars and Mars 2020 rovers will study the Red Planet


PanCam This panoramic camera will be used to image and map the terrain on Mars.

Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM) Working with the panoramic camera, ISEM will use infrared to select targets for further analysis.

Adron Raman Laser Spectrometer Using a laser, this instrument will attempt to find organic compounds and signatures of life inside samples.

This instrument will search for subsurface water and help to choose suitable targets for drilling.

Close-up Imager This system of cameras will help take highresolution images of rocks and features with scientific interest.

Drill A drill on board will collect samples from several soil types, reaching a maximum depth of two metres.

A history of water on Mars

Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies This instrument will help study the mineralogy of rocks encountered by the drill.

How we’ve painted a picture of a once habitable world

Canyons – 1971 Mariner 9

Rivers – 1976 Viking 1 and 2

Salty – 1997 Pathfinder

NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft found a vast canyon on Mars and beamed back images of the planet’s south pole.

The Viking landers found evidence that rivers of water had spread far across the surface.

Pathfinder found that temperatures on Mars were high enough to support salty liquid water.

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Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Data from Mars Odyssey suggested there was enough ice under the surface of Mars to fill Lake Michigan twice

Mars 2020

Methane on Mars In 2014, NASA’s Curiosity rover had discovered a temporary increase of methane in its location on Mars. This hinted at – but does not prove – the presence of biological processes. An instrument on board the rover called Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) ‘sniffed’ the atmosphere over the course of 20 months. In two of those months, there were spikes of methane that were ten times larger than the average in other months. This suggests there was a localised methane source. There are several possible causes, including the interaction of rock and water underground. But there could be a biological reason, perhaps subsurface microbes releasing methane. It raises the possibility that some basic life may still exist on Mars today. Curiosity found spikes in methane levels on Mars

Mastcam-Z This advanced camera will take panoramic images of Mars, and work out the mineralogy of the surrounding surface.

RIMFAX This groundpenetrating radar will try to work out what is going on under the Martian surface.

Curiously familiar


The Mars 2020 will be based on the design of the Curiosity rover shown here.

This instrument will be able to detect organic compounds in rocks from a distance.

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer These sensors will measure the temperature, wind speed and more on the surface of Mars.

PIXL This instrument will allow for a more detailed analysis of the chemical composition of Martian soil than ever before.

Mars Organic Molecule Analyser The biggest instrument on ExoMars, MOMA will directly try to find biomarkers in samples collected by the drill.

“NASA’s Viking landers were the first probes to search for life”

MOXIE SHERLOC This instrument will use an ultraviolet laser to search for organic compounds on Mars.

This intriguing instrument will attempt to create oxygen on Mars from its carbon dioxide, with an eye on future manned missions.

Hidden water

There could be ice or even liquid water trapped under the Martian surface

Clues Geological features on the surface suggest Mars once had rivers, lakes and seas.

Reservoirs Mars’ surface is barren, but remnants of ice could be trapped underground.


MAVEN is NASA’s most recent spacecraft to be sent to Mars

Liquid – 1999 Mars Global Surveyor

Ice – 2001 Mars Odyssey

Stream – 2012 Curiosity

Images from the Mars Global Surveyor between 1999 and 2001 suggested liquid water may still be flowing on Mars.

This probe found that there could be huge deposits of ice and water below the surface of Mars.

Curiosity has found that its landing site within the Gale Crater may have been an ancient stream bed. | 37

life on mars Space

Getting to Mars How we’re preparing for manned missions to the Red Planet

The rockets To get beyond Earth’s orbit, you need a very big rocket. For the Apollo missions to the Moon, NASA had the Saturn V, which remains the most powerful rocket ever built. But for missions to Mars, things are going to need to get bigger – and better. First up is NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Measuring 117 metres in height, this heavy-lift rocket will launch astronauts and cargo to Mars. Its first test flight is not scheduled until 2018, though, and questions remain over how it will be used. More recently, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed his bold plan to get to Mars with his Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). At a height of 122 metres, Musk wants to use this to colonise Mars with a million people by the turn of the century. It is likely that Russia and China will also reveal rockets bound for Mars over the coming decades.

Practising on the ISS Long-duration stays aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are helping prepare crews for Mars. These stays normally last six months, but in 2015, an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut spent an entire year on the station, providing crucial data on how humans will cope with the longer spaceflights needed for Mars missions.

SLS Rocket NASA’s Space Launch System will enable humans to explore destinations beyond the Moon.

Will SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System deliver on its promises?

NASA’s crew capsule The Orion spacecraft is NASA’s answer to launching astronauts from Earth and returning them from Mars. It will house up to six astronauts, taking them into Earth’s orbit where they will likely dock with another larger habitat, which they will use for the journey to Mars, although this has yet to be finalised.

Journey to Mars

How NASA plans to send humans to Mars by 2040

Present-2024 International Space Station

2018 Exploration Mission-1

2020 Deep Space Gateway

Missions to the ISS will continue until at least 2024, learning how humans live and work in space.

SLS and an unmanned Orion capsule will launch together for the first time in 2018.

NASA plans to build a spaceport in lunar orbit to act as a gateway for missions into deep space, including Mars.

38 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? No humans have left Earth’s orbit since 1972, when Apollo 17 made the three-day journey to the Moon

Simulating a Mars mission

HI-SEAS uses a dome in Hawaii to simulate Mars missions

On 28 August 2016, six people emerged from a two-story dome in Hawaii, having spent a whole year in isolation. Why? They were simulating what it might be like to live on Mars under similar conditions in the future. The mission, called HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), was part-run by NASA to prepare for its planned manned missions in the 2030s. During the experiment, the team spent their entire time inside the dome, having to don ‘spacesuits’ to venture outside, just as explorers will have to on future Mars missions. Their communications to Earth were also delayed by 20 minutes – the same lag Martian explorers will experience. Although there’s no substitute for actually being on Mars, the goal of this programme was to see how humans would cope with isolation. NASA’s missions to Mars may last three years in total, including 500 days on the surface – a long time away from Earth and other human contact.

Deep space habitats Getting to Mars will take up to nine months, so astronauts will need something larger than a small capsule to live in. This is likely to be a multi-roomed spacecraft similar to the ISS, and will require shielding to protect astronauts from cosmic radiation.

Robotic helpers Images from orbiters and data from rovers at Mars will be used to pick a landing site for the manned missions, with a number of candidates already being discussed. Once humans reach Mars, probes can also be used as relay satellites to communicate with Earth.

Ion engines

© NASA; SpaceX; Illustration by Adrain Mann

The spacecraft that takes humans to Mars will likely use some form of solar electric propulsion, or ion engines, to gradually accelerate and decelerate the spacecraft. This will help save on fuel, leaving more room for cargo and reducing the mass needed at lift-off from Earth.

2030 The Moon

2033 Phobos

2039 Mars

By 2030, NASA wants to be conducting regular missions to lunar space.

NASA may launch a crewed mission to the Martian moon Phobos in around 2033.

By the end of the 2030s, NASA plans to send humans to the surface of Mars. | 39

life on mars

Humans on Mars What will we actually do when we get to the Red Planet? Of all the aspects of sending people to Mars, what life will actually be like there is the most speculative of the lot. That’s not to say people haven’t thought about it, but no one yet knows for sure how humans will survive there. What seems likely, though, is that the first missions to Mars will involve telerobotics. This will see humans orbit Mars, perhaps living on the Martian moon Phobos, and operate rovers on the surface. Without the communications delay that Earth-controlled rovers suffer, this could allow for much more rapid exploration of the surface. Eventually, though, humans will set foot there. If Elon Musk is to be believed, these humans will be self-sustaining, living off the land and using clever equipment to create oxygen, water, and even make the planet more Earth-like. It remains to be seen if Musk’s plan to have a million people living on Mars by the turn of the century comes to fruition. For NASA, the plans are likely to be simpler and more realistic. Think along the lines of the Apollo missions, with small crews venturing to the surface, staying on Mars for a few weeks or a few years, before returning home. To create a habitat on Mars, it may be necessary to partially submerge a structure in the Martian

soil. This will provide a barrier against cosmic and solar radiation, keeping the crews healthy. We know there is a lot of water ice locked at the poles and under the surface of Mars, so making use of this will be important. Depending on how successful the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rovers are, it may be that there is enough water underground to support a small Martian colony. This water could be purified into drinking water, or broken down into its constituent elements to make fuel. With humans on Mars, we will be able to explore the surface like never before. Gone will be the days of tentative robotic footsteps – we will be able to study and analyse vast swathes of the Red Planet, and perhaps definitively answer if there is life on Mars.

“People have long dreamed of turning Mars into an Earthlike world” The dome Before a crew arrives, robots turn the water into ice, and create a layered dome that can house people.

Sunlight When completed, humans would be able to live inside the dome, growing plants in sunlight.

Mars Ice House This proposal won NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge in 2015

Ice, ice, maybe As its name suggests, this structure would be made entirely out of ice.

Exploration Astronauts could enter and exit the structure with ease, allowing them to explore the Martian surface.

Water Subsurface water would continuously be mined to re-supply the astronauts and keep them alive.

Terraforming Mars

The steps we’d need to take to make Mars habitable

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50 years Preparation

100 years Colonisation

100 years Melting

150 years Plants

Send humans to Mars, and install the machinery necessary to terraform the planet.

If Elon Musk is right, we could have a million people living on Mars in 100 years.

By heating the poles we would release vapour and CO2 into the atmosphere, heating the planet.

By this point, oxygen levels may be suitable for plant life on the surface.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Other places in the Solar System like Europa and Titan may once have played host to life, or perhaps still do

This design from Team LavaHive uses 3D printing to create a modular Mars base

Can we make Mars habitable? People have long dreamed of turning Mars into an Earth-like world and it might be possible – although perhaps not just yet. One way to do it would be to heat the vast amount of ice at the Martian poles, maybe with large mirrors in orbit. This would release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thickening it, and potentially heating up the planet. Another method would be to use factories on the surface to manufacture chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from the air and soil. CFCs are responsible for Earth’s ozone, which traps heat from the Sun, and perhaps we could create a similar effect on Mars. We’d also need to find a way to turn the atmosphere from predominantly carbon dioxide into oxygen and nitrogen, like on Earth. One complication is that without a magnetic field, the Martian atmosphere is continuously blown away by the Sun. Who knows, though – perhaps there will be a solution in the future.

Radiation The icy exterior would give protection from radiation, meaning these humans would not have to live underground.

This concept from Team Gamma uses semi-autonomous robots to construct a habitat from the Martian soil

If all the ice on Mars melted, it could look decidedly more Earth-like

50 years

150 years

900 years

100,000 years

Location The habitat would be built on land where subsurface water was easily accessible.

900 years Humans

100,000 years The future

In an optimistic scenario, Mars could then be suitable for everyday human life in 900 years.

However, other estimates suggest it may take 10,000 to 100,000 years to terraform the planet. Stay tuned!

© NASA; WIKI; Clouds AO; Foster + Partners

Habitat modules would have both private and communal spaces | 41

life on mars

COLONISING MARS The tech that will help us go where no man has gone before


ver since Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon there have been dreams to colonise other bodies in the Solar System – something that is becoming increasingly viable thanks to huge advancements in space travel and equipment such as spacesuits. Voyager 1 has travelled just short of 20 billion kilometres (12.4 billion miles) from planet Earth, but so far humans have only reached the Moon, which is 384,400 kilometres (239,000 miles) away. The main reasons behind the difficulty of sending humans further distances are fuel storage, costs and the comfort of the astronauts. At least one of these conditions has to be compromised for a long-distance journey into space and that has held us back – but that situation could soon change.

The reaction between nano-aluminium powder and water creates a powerful blast of hydrogen gas and aluminium oxide. This provides the thrust for a rocket to launch without weighing too much. Solar technology, such as that used on the Rosetta comet-chasing probe, will also reduce the reliance on fuel, further lightening the load. MIT has developed a skintight spacesuit that essentially shrink-wraps the astronaut, providing counter-pressure to the atmosphere. This will be much lighter and more flexible than current spacesuits, making extended periods of wear far more bearable. 3D printing has also paved the way for missions in space to be much more streamlined. The ability to design and print almost anything

from a tiny bolt to a huge satellite dish means that missions can leave without bulky payloads on board. All these advances in technology have pushed forward the possibility of inhabiting another planet. Mars One is a project that aims to have humans living on Mars by 2025. They hope to achieve this by sending up rovers and lifesupport units within the next eight years, which will seek out a location close enough to the poles for water, close enough to the equator for solar power and flat enough to build on. The lifesupport units will leech water from the soil by heating subsurface ice. Some will be stored and some used for creating oxygen, nitrogen and argon, which should make the atmosphere breathable before the first humans arrive.

Escape vehicle

Clothing Spacesuits will be required until the atmospheric conditions are right, but lighter, more mobile suits are in development.

In the event of an emergency, the inhabitants of the planet will have a means of escape.

Terraforming Chlorofluorocarbons will be released into the atmosphere to trap the Sun’s heat and create an ozone layer.

Factories The chlorofluorocarbons will be manufactured in factories from soil and air, well in time for the first crew’s arrival.

Housing module Inhabitants would live inside pressurised domes, which are connected to the water supply.

Supplies Water will be extracted from the Martian surface by heating ice.

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Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The Falcon 9 was developed by SpaceX, a private research facility owned by Elon Musk

Reaching Mars To make it to the Red Planet, new spaceships are needed – these are the best ones currently in development

VASIMR The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket converts gas into magnetised plasma, providing powerful fuel to shorten the journey.


Falcon 9 A two-stage reusable rocket that will take the spaceship to Mars. It is designed by private space company SpaceX.

Crew capsules NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle or SpaceX’s Dragon capsule could carry the colonists to Mars.

© Sol90; Dreamstime

Similar in design to the Saturn V – King of the Apollo era and successfully launched 13 times – NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is currently being developed for future Mars missions. | 43

life on mars

Growing food on Mars and the Moon could hugely benefit plans to colonise other worlds

Farming on alien planets B

elieve it or not, the soil found on the Moon and Mars could actually be much more fertile than some of the dirt found on Earth. If we are ever to go on to colonise other worlds – with the Red Planet being our number-one target – then this is very good news for astronauts. It’s thanks to a team of scientists in the Netherlands, who have braved volcanoes in

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Hawaii and Arizona to obtain material akin to Martian dirt and lunar soil, to provide us with the information that could help humans one day settle on an alien planet. Both soils have the essential ingredients plants need to grow – nitrates and ammonium. The experts discovered – by using ‘fake’ minerals from Mars and the Moon to try and grow carrots, tomatoes, weeds and wheat –

that untreated soil found on Mars was the plant’s favourite. On the other hand, Moon dirt didn’t agree with them completely, with some crops struggling to grow. All is not lost for crop farming on the Moon, though – scientists think that pumping our natural satellite’s soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria could be the ticket for growing crops on our cratered companion.

© NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team; NASA

Mars and the Moon could be new places to grow food

world of tomorrow Introducing the future tech that’s going to change everything p48-51: future cities and classrooms How technology will affect the way we live and learn.

p52-55: tomorrow’s transport Get from A to B in style with flying cars and Hyperloops.

p56-57: star trekkers How drones can be used in space exploration.

p58-60: travel 2050 Your ticket to the high-tech holiday of the future.

p62-65: interstellar space travel The ambitious plan to sail between the stars. | 47

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Future cities Experience the lean, green cities we’ll soon be living in

Solar power Buildings would incorporate solar panels into their walls to harvest energy.

Farmscrapers High-rise flats could grow food both inside and outside the buildings, helping to create natural insulation.

Wind power The farmscrapers would also have wind farms on their roofs to make use of unhindered wind energy.

Urban spaces By building up rather than out, cities will have room for spaces for recreation and leisure.

Water collection Rainwater could be collected on the roofs of buildings, which would then be used in the homes below.

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Particle problems

Sincepower NASA’sisApollo expected 17 mission to become wentthe to the largest Moon source in 1972, of no electricity humansby have 2050 travelled beyond low-Earth orbit DID YOU KNOW? Solar

Trees with solar panels instead of leaves can provide charging stations for phones and free lighting.

Energy storage Excess energy produced by solar panels and wind farms would be stored in batteries and fed back into the national grid.

Plants replace street lamps Researchers at the Glowing Plant project have transferred firefly genes into plants to make them glow in the dark and light your way home.


Virtual fitting rooms This tech is already here! Some stores offer you the chance to superimpose clothes onto your body using a tablet or smartphone app. | 49

© Science Photo Library; Getty; Corbis; Dreamstime


ajor cities are often viewed as grey, energy-guzzling monoliths, but the cities of the future could change everything. As the planet’s store of fossil fuels dries up, we are looking for new ways to power our cities in sustainable but spectacularlooking ways. Skyscrapers will become towering greenhouses as vertical farming takes hold. Crops would be grown between storeys, taking advantage of the Sun’s energy while using minimal ground space. These ecological super-buildings would have photovoltaic solar-cell facades and be topped by wind turbines, making these homes the ultimate self-sustaining structures. Tomorrow’s city centres could look very different as groups gather below solar powered trees. These so-called eTrees offer more than just shade, as the energy produced from the solar panels transforms them into mobile phone charging stations, free Wi-Fi and night lighting. The solar energy also activates an LCD screen that displays information such as the weather and educational content. Building upward would allow plenty of room on the ground for urban social areas as well as luminous plants. These are implanted with light-giving compounds known as luciferins, which will make the greenery glow at night as a cost-effective and eco-friendly method of illuminating tomorrow’s cities. Far from being a scary, soulless world as shown in movies like Judge Dredd and Blade Runner, the future cities promise to be bright, spacious and green, making the most of the amazing natural resources we have at our disposal already.

world Space of tomorrow

Desk-embedded computing

Augmented learning

FUTURE classroomS

How will tech change learning in the coming years?

3D projections Interactive holograms will allow students to walk around models of planets, animals and more, studying them in more detail.

Augmented learning Glasses with special over-eye displays will let students view related, useful information around a subject as they learn.

Indoor school trips Students will bring in their own VR headsets from home in order to take virtual outings as a group.

Guided learning Interactive boards will allow teachers to pose questions at the start of the lesson, before students form into groups to direct their own learning.

Desk-embedded computing Desks will be a lot more than surfaces to lean on. Screens built into the table-tops will allow students to work without extra computers or hardware.

Digital worksheets Online discussions The online area will be used as a place to communicate, with students and teachers contributing to discussions about a day’s lesson for homework.

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Paper-thin screens will be commonplace, allowing a single worksheet to change throughout the day to display information the students need.

Gaming Games will be introduced into the classroom as a tool for learning, making the classroom a more interesting and engaging place for students.

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Currently, 3D printers can take hours to print small models but in future models will be created in minutes

Passing notes

VR lessons

Passing notes Kids won’t write notes to each other any more – instead, they’ll send messages through their smart watches so the teacher doesn’t see.

VR lessons Dedicated booths will allow students to step away from the classroom and take trips into history, space, or the future.

“Interactive holograms will allow students to walk around models of planets, animals and more”

Carrying bulky textbooks around will be a thing of the past, with tablets containing a student’s entire reading list for the academic year.

Analytic learning Students will be encouraged to record their own work, so they can watch it back later to analyse their own performance.

Printing the future 3D printers in the classroom will allow students to create real, hard copies of items they are studying to manipulate and analyse. | 51

© Illustration by Nicholas Forder

The new textbooks

world of tomorrow

Tomorrow’s transport Why getting from A to B will soon become a breeze


hen you hear the term ‘transport of the future’ your mind will generally turn to flying cars. Excitingly, they’re already on the way. AeroMobil has unveiled the third version of its flying vehicle. Capable of switching in seconds between car and plane, you could wing your way to your destination, free from traffic jams and roadworks. On the ground, the AeroMobil uses regular petrol and fits into any standard parking space, but can reach 200 kilometres (124 miles) per hour

Flying car The plane-car hybrid that will change our travelling forever

in the air thanks to its Rotax 912 engine. This would reduce the traffic in future cities, making the streets safer for people on the ground. Also, companies such as Amazon and DHL are trialling drones that can deliver parcels under 2.3 kilograms (five pounds), which Amazon says makes up 86 per cent of their deliveries. The use of drones will clear the streets and air as they will be battery or solar powered. If you still felt like you wanted to stay on the ground, however, driverless taxis could ferry

you around. The Google driverless car has already completed over 1,125,000 kilometres (700,000 miles) of accident-free driving using GPS satellites to map routes and on-board cameras to search for hazards. These cars could be used as taxis – which would be summoned by a smartphone app – and would drive closer to each other and more efficiently than human drivers, meaning that no one need ever own a car. Unless it’s an amazing flying car, that is.



The AeroMobil has a steel framework covered by a carbon coating, giving it strength and lightness.

In the event of an aerial problem, the AeroMobil has a parachutedeployment system.

Length The 6m (19.7ft)-long body makes it 38 per cent longer than the 2014 Ford Focus, so bay parking might be tricky.


Fuel range

The petrolpowered Rotax 912 engine throws out 100hp (74.6kW), making the aerial top speed 200km/h (124mph) and 160km/h (100mph) on the road.

You can travel 875km (540mi) on the road and 700km (435mi) in the air, so you could travel the length of England.

Wings The wings span 8.2m (27ft) and are fully collapsible, enabling the AeroMobil to act as a normal car.

Seating There is only room for two people, so it’s probably not ideal for families!

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Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Even though it’s a flying car, the AeroMobil uses regular gasoline

The AeroMobil’s dashboard is a little more complicated than today’s cars’

Delivery drones At the moment delivery companies spend huge sums of money and use enormous amounts of fuel on delivering parcels, but in the city of the future drones could take on the task. Amazon and DHL are testing out drones that could deliver the majority of their products. These autonomous flying vehicles are lightweight and can be pre-programmed to reach their destination, guided by satellites. They could deliver to hard-to-reach areas such as islands and take a huge number of vehicles off the roads. As they are powered either by batteries or solar power, they wouldn’t be a drain on resources like delivery trucks either. At the moment it is still illegal in the US for Amazon to use their drones for commercial reasons, although the company is in talks with the FAA to work around this. As the technology is already there it is looking increasingly likely that these devices could be in our skies within the next few years.

Kick back and let the car of the future drive you around

There is a very good chance that in the future, no one need ever own a car. Just like London and New York’s bike-rental scheme, driverless cars could be summoned to your house and drive you to work. As they will drive themselves with much quicker reactions than humans and can’t be distracted, they will be able to run at a steady speed, closer together and with fewer accidents, removing the main causes of traffic jams Rooftop cameras will use lasers to scan the road ahead at a range beyond that of human vision. A second camera will look to the sides for hazards like pedestrians or animals. The guidance system will use GPS, altimeters and gyroscopes to keep track of where it is and where it is going. As 90 per cent of a car’s life is spent parked, autonomous hire cars could become the most efficient way to get around. | 53

© Science Photo Library; Alamy; AeroMobil; Dreamstime

Driverless taxis

world of tomorrow

The Hyperloop Elon Musk’s fascination with revolutionising the way we travel doesn’t just include electric Tesla cars or SpaceX rockets. The entrepreneur’s most innovative idea yet focuses on a highspeed super shuttle called the Hyperloop. This Futurama-style tube concept is billed as a high-speed transport system capable of whizzing between San Francisco to Los Angeles – a total distance of around 600 kilometres (372 miles) – in just 35 minutes. This unconventional design involves pods travelling through a tube at almost the speed of

sound. To achieve such an incredibly quick journey between the two Californian cities, the Hyperloop’s tubes will be depressurised to significantly reduce atmospheric drag on the pods as they zip through. Musk ruled out using a complete vacuum, however, since this would be difficult to maintain and even so much as a tiny crack in the tube would completely stop the whole system working. The pods will have aluminium ski-like fixtures that will have high-pressure air pumped through them, allowing the capsules to levitate


Tube pressure

Each capsule should be able to hold 28 passengers, with seating similar to that on an airplane.

Reduced pressure – approximately one thousandth of the air pressure at sea level – ensures a travelling capsule is faced with minimal air resistance.

on a cushion of air, similar to an air hockey table. These skis will pass through tracks of linear induction motors positioned throughout the tube which will electromagnetically accelerate or decelerate the pods as required. An eight-kilometre (five-mile) test track of the Hyperloop system is due to be built in California. If the project is a success, we could soon see a rapid form of transport for people and goods that doesn’t cost lots to run, making Hyperloop one of the most exciting advancements to ever occur in the travel industry.

Inside the Hyperloop Here’s how Elon Musk’s Hyperloop will transport passengers quickly and efficiently from A to B

Aerodynamics The capsules will need to be designed with a suitably aerodynamic shape to cut through the air.

Design SpaceX are currently holding a competition for engineers to design pods to try out on the Hyperloop test track.

Tubes The Hyperloop’s tubes will be suspended in the air by pillars, which will include dampers to help withstand earthquakes.

Linear accelerators The Hyperloop’s propulsion will be provided by linear electric motors which produce electromagnetic forces that push the pods along the tube.

Air cushion Each capsule will float on a cushion of air, significantly reducing friction.

A taxi service in the sky Personal helicopters aren’t the only next-gen form of travel whisking passengers away from street level. SkyTran, which has a pilot project currently in development in Israel, is a monorail-like system with pods suspended six to nine metres (20 to 30 feet) above the ground and provides high-speed, low-cost transport for its users. Passengers simply summon a pod to a station via an app on their smartphone and it takes them where they want to go. The system works using maglev technology which utilises magnets in the rail to levitate the two-person pods so they are not in

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direct contact with the track, reducing friction. The cutting-edge technology, developed with NASA’s Ames Research Center, means that the pods generate their own levitation as they move, only requiring an initial burst of power to start and stop. A 500-metre (1,640-foot) test track will be built at the campus of Israel Autospace Industries, where the pods will be able to reach speeds of up to 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) per hour. If the trial is successful, this all-new form of transport will be installed in the heart of Tel Aviv, before being introduced to cities across the world.

SkyTran’s pilot project will demonstrate a network of high-speed, low-cost transport

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Elon Musk says his Hyperloop would cost 10% of the $70bn rail being built between LA and San Francisco

Personal helicopters Traffic is swelling on roads around the world and in Brazil the wealthy are looking to avoid this altogether – by taking to the skies in personal helicopters. Novel designs such as the Volocopter are becoming increasingly popular among the urban elite. Key to the success of vehicles like the manned Volocopter, which can carry up to two passengers at a time, is that they are capable of a vertical take-off or landing, making it very useful in tightly-packed cities where space is at a premium. The Volocopter is powered by electric motors, making it quieter and more environmentally friendly than a conventional helicopter. The lack of an internal combustion engine also eliminates the vibrations and the high noise level associated with helicopters, meaning the Volocopter is much more comfortable for its occupants.

German company e-volo’s Volocopter is an electrically powered VTOL aircraft

Solar power The Hyperloop looks set to harness the Sun’s energy by installing solar panels along the roof of the tube.

Speed The capsules will whiz through the Hyperloop at a top speed of about 1,223km/h (760mph) – just below the speed of sound.

Air compressor A large compressor fan will be mounted to the front of each capsule to help direct air toward the back and out of the pod’s path. Sacramento San Francisco

California Fresno

To Las Vegas

Los Angeles

Journey times from LA to San Francisco 5hrs 40mins


8 hrs


San Diego





© Thinkstock; Argodesign


Main route

12 hrs 1hr 30mins | 55

world of tomorrow

Star trekkers

NASA’s prototype drone is being tested in this gimbal to assess its low-gravity performance

How drones can be used in space exploration

Cold-gas jets

Extreme Access Flyers The next evolution of quadcopters will use fuels created on Mars

Instead of rotors, jets will use oxygen or steam water vapour to handle the lifting and manoeuvring duties.

Navigation The navigation system will recognise landscapes, and will be able to guide itself to pre-programmed locations.

The mission to find water and ice on Mars will soon expand to utilise a new generation of drone technology thanks to the scientists at NASA. A tiny new drone may soon be launched to the Red Planet, and be flown into the most difficult-to-access areas of faraway planets and asteroids to discover resources otherwise inaccessible to land-based rovers. A drone might just discover water on Mars.

Powered up A base station, from which the drone will be deployed, will also recharge the drone using energy captured from solar panels.

Sampling The drone will be designed modularly, allowing it to take various tools one at a time, depending on the mission.

No blades The blades of a drone on Mars would have to be huge to gain lift in the thinner atmosphere.


“A tiny new drone may soon be launched to the Red Planet”

The drones NASA is currently testing are around the size of your palm, so a lander could carry several in a single mission.

NASA’s Prandtl-D Drones are already used in space exploration – that is, if you count rovers and balloon-based scanners. But hundreds of thousands of miles away, drones may soon be used to scout new landscapes of planets using lightweight new designs like the Prandtl-D. This aircraft, currently in development at NASA, may be the future of exploration thanks to a revolutionary design. The new wing is bell-shaped rather than a traditional elliptical shape, and the removal of a tail or flight control surfaces has dramatically reduced the craft’s weight. Together, these features result in more than a 30 per cent increase in fuel economy. The design began with the research of the early 20th-century aeronautical engineer Ludwig Prandtl, and also incorporates conclusions from several other engineers and aerodynamics pioneers. However, the craft’s name, Prandtl-D, also stands for Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Lower Drag – we wonder what Ludwig would think of that…

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The revolutionary flat design takes inspiration from bird flight

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? Drones could scout the inside of lava tubes on Mars, which might later provide a safe base for astronauts

Early prototypes are large, but the final drone may be as small as the palm of your

Exploring Saturn’s moons The drone craft that may soon search the surface, seas and skies of Titan Titan is currently the only Earth-like world within our reach; with its liquid lakes, thick atmosphere and climate system, it’s at the top of many astrophysicists’ ‘to visit’ lists. Until now, the closest we’ve gotten is a pioneering but brief visit from the Huygens probe in 2005, but with the advancement of drone technology we may soon be exploring Saturn’s moon from the land, sea and air.

Distant world

Recharge station

Picture perfect

Balloons could offer a mobile recharging station for smaller drones, which would deposit samples before taking flight again.

Balloons, holding cameras, could fly over the surface of the moon, taking high-resolution images of the surface.

Currently, scientists have only managed a brief landing on Titan, so we are sadly still years from a mission like this.

Back-up plan Several drones could be taken in a single lander, so if one failed, another could be deployed.

Rotor-driven Due to Titan’s thick atmosphere, drones featuring rotors would fly far better than those using gas-powered flight.

Kraken Mare Titan’s largest known sea, known as Kraken Mare, is the primary target for any underwater drone.

Tough areas The submarine will measure the lake’s chemical composition, take images of the sea bed, and track currents and tides.

Rotor-based drones could land in hard-to-reach areas, including at the top of inclines.

Into the unknown The seas of Titan are composed of liquid hydrocarbons rather than water, so designing a suitable drone is difficult.


Instruments | 57

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ket c i t r u o Y hg i h e h t to y a d i l o h tech future of the Choose your mode of transport

Dassault Systèmes’ concept for a flying cruise liner


t’s 2050 and taking a vacation is easier than ever, thanks to the latest technological breakthroughs. Over the next few pages, we’ll guide you through every step of your trip, from planning and booking, to travelling and making the most of your stay. Some of the technology involved might seem unbelievable, but all of it was already real, or under development, in 2016. Take the process of booking your trip; you may have been using comparison websites to find the best deals, but now you don’t need to enter your information, as online travel agents already know your preferences. Gareth Williams, CEO and co-founder of travel company Skyscanner, said: “Travel search and booking will be as easy as buying a book on Amazon.” There’s no longer any guesswork involved in picking your holiday destination either, as Nik Gupter,

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Skyscanner’s director of hotels, already predicted back in 2016: “In ten years’ time a traveller will be able to take a virtual reality walk through the hotel he is planning to book in real-time.” The stress of travelling is long gone and getting to your destination is almost as enjoyable as the holiday itself. In 2016, Melissa Weigel from design studio Moment Factory said: “In the near future, airports will be an intrinsic part of the holiday experience.” Since then, automated check-in and speedy security scanning has made boarding your flight a breeze. Holiday destinations have also changed a great deal, as futurist Daniel Burrus predicted: “Relatively affordable trips in low Earth orbit that enable you to experience a few minutes of weightlessness will happen very soon.” Now we’ve our sights on the Moon and Mars.

Avoid the airport altogether by taking your TF-X flying car

The 90-metre luxury JAZZ yacht features an indoor pool

© Zaha Hadid Architects/Bloom+Voss Shipyards/Moka-Studio

The Spike S-512 jet will mirror the speed of Concorde

DID YOU KNOW? Self-service kiosks at Incheon airport in South Korea allow a three-minute check-in for eight major airlines

you have reached your destination

Motion sensors

Smart mirror

Upon entering the room, the lights automatically switch on and the coffee machine whirs into action.

As you get ready for the day, the local weather, news stories and your emails are projected over your reflection.

The smart hotel room will ensure the stress-free experience continues Once you’ve stepped off the plane and swiftly passed through immigration with your biometric card, you will find another driverless taxi waiting to take you to your hotel. Instead of having to pick up your room key at the check-in desk, you can proceed straight to your room and unlock it using your smartphone, a system that was adopted early by Hilton and Marriott hotel chains. Your bags are delivered to your door by a robot butler, such as Botlr, the droid employed by Aloft Hotels at their Californian establishments. He can be summoned via an app to bring you any toiletries you may have forgotten to pack, or deliver a tasty snack to help you refuel after your long journey. Just as everything in your own home is connected to the internet, all of your hotel room’s appliances are smart and intuitive too. You can even upload your home temperature preferences to the room’s Nest thermostat, and display family photos on the digital wall displays, to help you feel really at home. A good night’s rest is guaranteed as the Sleep Number x12 bed features sensors that monitor your sleep, ensuring the alarm clock gently wakes you at the optimum time, and can tilt the pillows to stop your partner snoring. All of this tech already existed as of 2016, but has since been adopted by hotels throughout the world.

Future hotel rooms The intuitive tech-filled rooms that will provide a home away from home

Touchscreen control A central interactive hub gives you control over all internet-connected appliances to fully customise the temperature, humidity and lighting in your room.

Keyless entry Avoid check-ins by downloading your key code onto your phone and scanning it at your hotel room door.

Biometric safe Keep your personal possessions secure in a safe that only opens when it scans your fingerprint or retina.

Robot butler Your luggage, room service, fresh towels and more are delivered by a robot that you can summon via an app.

Wireless charging VR headset Get a taster of local attractions by paying a virtual visit via the VR headset in your room.

Forget to bring your phone charger or plug adapter? Don’t worry, there’s an inductive charger built into the bedside unit.

© ICEHOTEL/Paulina Holmgren

weird hotels that actually exist The frozen hotel

The salt palace

Made entirely from ‘snice’ – a mixture of snow and ice – the Icehotel in Sweden melts in the summer and is rebuilt every winter, with construction taking just six weeks. Temperatures inside the hotel are between -5 and -7 degrees Celsius.

Located on the edge of the world’s largest salt flats in Bolivia, the Palacio de Sal has been built using one million blocks of salt and features 16 rooms, a spa and a golf course. Everything from the walls to the beds is made entirely from salt.

The jumbo experience If you haven’t had enough of airplanes by the time you leave the airport, then Jumbo Stay will let you dwell in one too. The converted 747-200 jumbo jet is grounded near Arlanda Airport in Sweden and features over 30 rooms. | 59

world of tomorrow

At the spaceport

Catch a space plane into orbit from your local spaceflight hub


Remote location Due to the higher risk involved with rocket vehicles, spaceports are located away from densely populated areas.

Space plane operations are conducted in segregated special-use airspace, away from normal air traffic routes.

World View’s heliumfilled balloon will float a capsule full of space tourists to the edge of space

Spaceflight operators


Lots of different commercial spaceflight companies operate from the same spaceport, so a number of different vehicles are catered for.

Terminal building Not just for check-in and shopping, the terminal also hosts astronaut training facilities to prepare passengers for their flight.


Rocket engines need both fuel and a source of oxygen, and different types are needed for different spacecrafts.

Space planes like Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo need a long runway for horizontal take-off and landing.

space tourism Take a trip that’s literally out of this world If you really want to escape from it all, then how about leaving the planet altogether? Space tourism is a billion dollar market in 2050 and there are several companies offering trips. Blue Origin, the company set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, can offer you breathtaking views from its New Shepard spacecraft as you soar over 100 kilometres above Earth. You’ll need to arrive at the desert launch site in West Texas two days before your flight so you can begin your astronaut training. You’ll receive mission and vehicle overviews, in-depth safety briefings and instructions on how to move in a weightless environment. When the morning of your flight arrives, it’s time to scale the steps of the launch tower and climb through the hatch of the capsule, which sits on top of an 18-metre tall rocket. Once you’re strapped in and have received final clearance for launch, the countdown to lift-off will begin. The extreme acceleration will

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force you back into your seat and you’ll experience over 3 g for 150 seconds and Blue Origin first then the booster engine will cut off as vertically landed a you glide into space. The capsule will booster in 2015, separate from the booster, and from the paving the way for reusable rockets serene silence will come the signal to release your harness. As you float out of your seat and marvel at the weightless freedom, you’ll forget that you’re travelling faster than Mach 3 – three times the speed of sound – and stare back at Earth out of the capsule window. XCOR Aero space is plan ning to laun Lynx spacep Before descent, you will return to your seat to ch its lane from its Curaçao sp aceport strap in for re-entry. Forces of over 5 g will push against you before the parachutes deploy and thrusters fire, reducing your speed as you gently float back to Earth. Once you’ve landed, just miles from where you launched, you can go and collect the complimentary souvenirs of your thrilling trip. That’s right; novelty keyrings still exist in 2050.

world of tomorrow The StarChip will be accelerated by lasers to 20 per cent the speed of light

Interstellar space travel The multimillion-dollar project taking us further into space than ever before


o date, we’ve done a pretty good job of exploring the Solar System. But in our half a century or so as a space-faring species, we have not yet truly ventured to any of the 100 billion stars in our own galaxy, or beyond. In 20 years, though, that could all be set to change. On 12 April 2016, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced an ambitious project as part of the Breakthrough Initiatives to send a series of small spacecraft to the nearest stars to our own Sun, the Alpha Centauri system. And he wasn’t alone; alongside him at this announcement were respected scientists, including Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, who have all signed up to help with the project. “The human story is one of great leaps,” said Milner. “55 years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap – to the stars.” So, what’s it all about? The project is known as Breakthrough Starshot, and it is utilising an oft-touted – but little explored – technique

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known as laser sails to reach tremendous speeds, and make a trip to another star possible in as little as a generation. You’ve probably heard of solar sails before. These are sheets of thin material that expand to massive sizes in space. Like a wind sail on Earth, these sails then pick up speed not from regular wind, but solar wind, the stream of particles given off by our Sun. The rate of acceleration is very slow but over time, a spacecraft could theoretically reach a significant fraction of the speed of light. This proposal is slightly different, though. Instead of using solar wind, the team is proposing to fire giant lasers on Earth at sail-mounted spacecraft. These spacecraft, known as a StarChips, would have several instruments packed into them, but be small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, thanks to huge advances in technology. The sail itself would be larger, spanning a metre, although just a few hundred atoms thick. Theoretically, shining a 100-gigawatt laser on one of the sails

should accelerate the spacecraft to 20 per cent of the speed of light – or 216 million kilometres per hour – in minutes. At these speeds, traversing the Solar System would be a breeze. In hours, the spacecraft would reach Mars, a journey that takes several months for conventional spacecraft powered by chemical fuels. In three days, it would reach Pluto, which took New Horizons almost ten years to reach. Most importantly, in 20 years, the spacecraft would reach Alpha Centauri, 4.37 light years (40 trillion kilometres) away. Alpha Centauri’s three stars arethe closest to our Sun

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The furthest spacecraft from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1, would take 73,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri

One of the main reasons for going to Alpha Centauri – which is actually a triple system made of three stars – is that it’s the closest star system to our Sun. We now think that almost every star plays host to at least one planet, and Alpha Centauri A, B and C should be no exception. The goal of the mission would be to study these planets, returning images and priceless data to Earth. Owing to the distance, this information – travelling at the speed of light – would take 4.37 years to make it back. But a total of less than 25 years for such data is pittance, considering the implications. “Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever,” Stephen Hawking said in a statement from Breakthrough Starshot. “Sooner or later, we must look to the stars. Breakthrough Starshot is a very exciting first step on that journey.” So far, so good. But this is just scratching the surface of the technical challenge of this hugely ambitious project. We’ve never sent a spacecraft beyond 240,000 kilometres per hour before; the StarChip would travel almost 1,000 times faster. There will be a huge number of unknowns of accelerating to and travelling at these speeds. How the spacecraft will hold itself together during the intense acceleration phase, and how it will communicate with Earth at great distances, will also need to be resolved. Breakthrough Starshot, therefore, is a bid to overcome such hurdles. Milner is investing $100 million of his own money, but he readily admits that this is merely seed funding. The final cost of the mission could spiral into the billions of dollars, and he is hoping for funding from a number of sources in order to support the project. As such, there is no definitive launch date yet, although some time in the next couple of decades is not unthinkable. One way to overcome some of the challenges facing the project will be to send not just one spacecraft, but to launch a ‘mothership’ with thousands of StarChips on board. All of them

Sailing to the stars To travel at high speeds, Breakthrough Starshot’s nanocrafts will be propelled by a powerful laser on Earth. Each would be a chip weighing just one gram, with communications, cameras and a battery built in. But expanding from this would be a larger sail spanning a metre. An array of lasers on Earth would shine a combined 100 gigawatts on the spacecraft. Each one would accelerate 60,000 times faster than Earth’s gravity, reaching 20 per cent of the speed of light in just two minutes. At these speeds the journey to Alpha Centauri, just over four light years away, would take 20 years.

How a laser sail works The science behind using lasers

Yuri Milner (third from left) and other scientists, such as Stephen Hawking (front centre), announcing Breakthrough Starshot

Laser An array on Earth fires a combined laser of 100 gigawatts.

to reach incredible speeds

Direction The laser will be directed at the StarChip in Earth orbit.

Propulsion As the laser hits the sail, it transfers its momentum, causing acceleration.

Speed Continued firing of the laser over several minutes increases the speed to 20 per cent that of light.

Warp travel

Nuclear power

Slow and steady

Some theories suggest it may be possible to ‘warp’ space time, allowing us to travel huge distances in a short amount of time. This is mostly science fiction at the moment, though.

Launching a spacecraft with nuclear reactors would give it a lengthy source of fuel, allowing it to accelerate and decelerate constantly to reach far-off destinations, but safety is a concern.

Instead of fast travel, we could send a colony of humans on a ‘generation ship’, with them travelling for hundreds of years towards a new world. | 63

© Breakthrough Initiatives ; Alamy; Thinkstock; SPL

Exploring space

world of tomorrow

Breakthrough Starshot timeline Here’s how the spacecraft will make their way beyond the Solar System

Interstellar wind

The Moon


It will take the StarChips less than a minute to reach the Moon.

Within a matter of days, the spacecraft will pass beyond the Sun’s influence, and become true interstellar travellers.


101 AU

interaction zone

102 AU Kuiper belt

103 AU

Voyager 2

Asteroid belt


Voyager 1

After an hour, the swarm of spacecraft will make their way past the Red Planet’s orbit.

Once they pass Voyager 1 at 20 billion kilometres, the StarChips will become the most distant man-made objects.

Termination shock

Interstellar wind

AU = Astronomical Unit, the distance between Earth and the Sun would be released in orbit, where the powerful Earth-based laser would shine upon them, firing them off in the direction of Alpha Centauri. Think of this mission not as a single man-made vehicle making a lonely journey, but an entire fleet venturing off into the cosmos. If it works, this form of propulsion could prove invaluable. Not only would it let us reach Alpha Centauri in 20 years, but it would also let us explore destinations closer to home, such as the Moon and Mars, in a tiny fraction of the time that is currently possible. Imagine if, on a regular basis, scientific organisations from around the world could send their own prospecting spacecraft to places all over the Solar System, letting us frequently explore worlds closer to home, rather than sending a mission every few years or so. Once the spacecraft reached Alpha Centauri, they would not stay for long. Owing to the method of travel, this would very much be a one-way trip. The spacecraft would merely fly by any worlds we discover, snapping as many images as possible and gathering data. They may also collect information on the atmospheric composition of the planets, their temperature, their rotation rate, and so on.

64 | How It Works: HP Mars Home Planet

As for Alpha Centauri itself, the system may hold invaluable secrets. At the moment, we’re not actually sure if any of the three stars host planets. Previous detections have since been ruled uncertain. But it’s fair to assume there are probably some planets in orbit, considering two of the stars are similar to our Sun. We know all stars form in a debris of dust and gas, a planetary disc, which often gives rise to A giant array on Earth will fire a 100-gigawatt laser at the StarChip

planets. It’s hoped the same would be true of Alpha Centauri. Initially, astronomers had thought that there was a planet orbiting in the desirable habitable zone of one of the stars, Alpha Centauri B, an orbital position that is not too hot nor too cold, where liquid water is able to form on the surface. The nature of whatever planets are there still remains uncertain, but

Particle problems

DID YOU KNOW? The first planet outside the Solar System was not discovered until 1992, but thousands have been found since

Deep space

Phone home


Now entering unchartered territory, the StarChips could provide information on the characteristics of interstellar space.

Once data is collected, it will be sent back home at the speed of light, taking 4.37 years to reach us.

Space is so vast that, throughout the journey, there are unlikely to be any obstacles in the way.

Beyond After the flyby, the spacecraft will be left to drift endlessly into space.

interstellar medium Local Interstellar Cloud

G Cloud

104 AU

105 AU Alpha Centauri After 20 years, the spacecraft will reach the Alpha Centauri system and begin their mission.

The StarChip is small enough to fit between finger and thumb

Oort Cloud

the chances that one might be habitable are indeed fascinating. For decades now, we have been looking for worlds beyond our own that are Earth-like; that is, they have the necessary conditions to host life. After all, we are just one planet orbiting one of 100 billion stars in one of 100 billion galaxies. It seems unlikely that ours is the only planet teeming with life. But so far, finding planets exactly like our own has been difficult, owing to the limited methods of detection we currently employ. However, if we could send probes to a potentially habitable world around Alpha Centauri, we may be able to discover if our planet really is unique – or if there are many others like it. Imagine images being returned of a glorious alien world abundant in water, clouds or perhaps even vegetation. Such a discovery would no doubt change life on Earth forever, with untold money being pumped into missions to find more worlds like our own – and even visit them. For now, the project is in its infancy, and these dreams are at least 40 years away. But perhaps we’ll soon make the first steps to becoming a truly interstellar species, and discover our place among the stars.

© Breakthrough Initiatives ; SPL

It will take more than five years to exit the Oort Cloud, the region of comets surrounding our Solar System.

“Sooner or later, we must look to the stars” Stephen Hawking The Alpha Centauri System Alpha Centauri is not a single star. The system is actually composed of three stars: Alpha Centauri A and B, which are somewhat similar to the Sun, and Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri, which is a small and faint red dwarf. It’s not known which of the three Breakthrough Starshot would visit yet. Early in 2015, it was announced that Alpha Centauri B might play host to a planet, dubbed Alpha Centauri Bb, which was thought to be located in a tight and uninhabitable orbit. Later research suggested that Alpha Centauri Bb might not actually exist at all, and could simply have been a blip in observations. But considering how similar two of these stars are to our Sun, it is rather likely that at least one has some planets – and with more powerful telescopes in the future, these should hopefully reveal themselves. By sending spacecraft there, we could return not only images of these planets, but also information on their atmospheres, and potential habitability. Even if they’re molten rocks, images of such alien worlds It’s quite likely there are planets in would be astounding. the triple Alpha Centauri system | 65

DID YOU KNOW? ESA’s PLATO space telescope will focus on finding Earth-like worlds in habitable zones after launching in 2024

Where next? Once Mars has been conquered, the search will be on for the next potentially habitable planet. Here’s how we categorise the different worlds found in our galaxy and how likely they are to support life…



Battle of the Planets So far, the most common types of planet we’ve found tend to be the larger ones: subterran and upwards. Most planets are found by observing the dip they produce in their star’s light as they pass in front. But to confirm a planet, we need to observe these orbits. This is most easily done for large planets in close orbits, such as hot Jupiters, and so these were thought to be the most common planet type. However, recent studies suggest mini-Neptunes – worlds between Earth and Neptune in size – may actually be the most abundant.


Radius compared to Earth: 0.03 to 0.4 RE Mass compared to Earth: 0.00001 to 0.1 ME

Radius compared to Earth: 0.4 to 0.8 RE Mass compared to Earth: 0.1 to 0.5 ME

Radius compared to Earth: 0.8 to 1.5 RE Mass compared to Earth: 0.5 to 5 ME

Miniterrans are the smallest spherical rocky worlds, according to the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL). Due to their size, which is similar to that of Mercury, they are very hard to find – only five have been found outside the Solar System to date. Those we have found are close to their star, and thus very hot and have no atmosphere.

These rocky worlds are similar in size to Mars and again, like miniterrans, they are incredibly difficult to locate outside of our Solar System. Most of the 69 identified so far orbit close to their star, and are hot and hellish worlds, prone to regular bombardment from asteroids. Mars is the only subterran world in our Solar System.

Terrans are similar in size to Earth and Venus and are often billed as the most likely worlds to be habitable. Of the 664 found outside the Solar System to date, about 15 are thought to be in their star’s habitable zone, also known as the Goldilocks zone – the region where liquid water, and maybe life, could exist.




Radius compared to Earth: 2.5 to 6 RE Mass compared to Earth: 10 to 50 ME

Radius compared to Earth: > 6 RE Mass compared to Earth: > 50 ME

Radius compared to Earth: 1.5 to 2.5 RE Mass compared to Earth: 5 to 10 ME

As their name suggests, neptunians are similar in mass to the planet Neptune. They are likely to be gas giants too, and due to their size, we can more easily find them in the ‘cold zone’ at the edge of their planetary system, where water turns into ice. Our own Solar System’s edge, known as the Kuiper belt, is home to the dwarf planet Pluto.

Jovians are worlds that are similar in size to Jupiter – or even bigger – and are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium gas. Being so large they are relatively easy to find. But scientists were surprised to find many orbiting close to their host star – known as hot Jupiters – which has forced a rethink in how planetary systems evolve.

Superterrans, also known as super-Earths, are rocky worlds considerably larger than Earth. About 29 are known to orbit in their star’s habitable zone, although due to their enormous size, it is sometimes difficult to discern if a superterran is rocky like Earth, or a gas planet similar to Neptune.

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Our future depends on you – dreamers, futurists and problem-solvers – to preserve our way of life. You are invited to collaborate in a ‘univ...


Our future depends on you – dreamers, futurists and problem-solvers – to preserve our way of life. You are invited to collaborate in a ‘univ...