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Humans on the surface of Mars by the 2030s

ucyow3c1 December 2014

pencil-icon Written by Stephanie Yardley (PhD student, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

The Curiosity rover on Mars

The Curiosity rover on Mars

Recently, I was taken on an inspirational journey through the solar system and beyond, thanks to a public lecture on scientific discovery and human exploration given at UCL by Chief Scientist Dr Ellen Stofan and Chief Technologist Dr David Miller of NASA.

We have come a long way since the Apollo missions back in the late 1960s and now we have set our sights on the ultimate destination as NASA hopes that humans will set foot on Mars for the first time in the 2030s.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Narrowing our search for life on Mars

news editor12 September 2013

Life on Mars? (Image by MelissaBowersock on Flickr.)

Life on Mars? (Image by
MelissaBowersock
on Flickr.)

pencil-iconWritten by Cassy Fiford, a recent graduate from UCL and a science communication intern at the European Planetary Science Congress.

What might Martian life look like? Not like little green men, according to Dr Lewis Dartnell, a UK Space Agency research fellow who was talking at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) currently being held at UCL. Dr Dartnell is a former member of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.

Even the gloomy Monday morning rain did not dampen the spirits of the many scientists who joined the congress at UCL, each counting down until the 2016 launch of ExoMars, a European space mission with the purpose of finding life on Mars. UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory is playing a leading role in the development of ExoMars, including the design of the main camera, which will land with the second ExoMars probe in 2019.

Contrary to the classic Martian stereotype of little green men, Dr Dartnell and his team have focused on microscopic signs of life. They found that certain minuscule biomarkers, chemical ‘fingerprints’ of life, could be able to withstand the hostile conditions of Mars and may be indicative of life on our neighbouring planet. The survival of these man-made biomarkers in a Mars-like environment means the real thing might have survived on Mars and could be detected by the ExoMars programme.

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Scientists, MPs, and NASA directors flock to Parliament to discuss planetary science’s impact on society

news editor12 September 2013

The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.

The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.

pencil-icon

Written by Katrine Iversen, a current student at UCL and a European Planetary Science Congress science communication intern.

It’s packed in Parliamentary Committee Room 11 as the first Policy Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is due to begin in Parliament.

As a part of the EPSC, currently being held at UCL, people flocking to the meeting include MPs, NASA directors and scientists from all over the world, looking to discuss the importance of planetary science to society and how to ensure further growth and development within the field.

The meeting, which took place on Monday 9 September, was a huge success. Two members of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, Andrew Miller (MP for Ellesmere Port and Leston) and Dr Phillip Lee (MP for Bracknell), chaired the meeting while other MPs sent researchers to report back.

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To boldly go: pushing the limits of human exploration

Clare S Ryan26 October 2012

Space shuttle Endeavour in the streets
of Los Angeles en route to the California
ScienCenter (from vpisteve on Flickr).

Human exploration is big news. Felix Baumgartner recently made headlines around the world after becoming the first skydiver to fall faster than the speed of sound.

It seems we are fascinated by people who push the limits of what is possible, and so I was unsurprised to have to squeeze into Dr Kevin Fong’s recent Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘To boldly go’.

Dr Fong, who admits he has been at UCL “for-EVER”, studied both physics and medicine here and now leads a double life as a NASA scientist and a consultant anaesthetist at UCL Hospital.

As a physicist and a physiologist, he is in an unusual position to tell the story of human exploration and how we have triumphed over not just geographical boundaries, but also the limits of the human body.

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