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Not the Red Planet but Utah, one of the more Mars-like areas on Earth. Ashley Dove-Jay

Mars is the next step for humanity – we must take it

Elon Musk has built a US$12 billion company in an endeavour to pave the way to Mars for humanity. He insists that Mars is a “long-term insurance policy” for “the light of consciousness” in the face of…
Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering Pluto and its largest moon, Charon (foreground) in July 2015. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

From Mercury to Pluto: the year ahead in planetary exploration

2015 is already shaping up to be a big year in astronomy and planetary exploration, with the best yet to come. Here are some highlights to keep your eye on throughout the year. Opportunity January 25 marked…
Not yet, but soon … we’re getting closer to sending people to Mars. Samantha T./Flickr

Near Earth and far away, it’s been an exciting year in space

It was an exciting year in space exploration, with mind-blowing triumphs and heart-breaking failures. On Earth, new rockets and spacecraft were tested by space agencies and commercial ventures. SpaceX…
The author posing with a fully-functional model of the Curiosity rover on Earth, not Mars.

Scientists at work: my other office is on Mars

“All systems go!” I said cautiously with a long sigh of relief. I had approved plans for the first soil analysis that would give humankind clues to the past and future habitability of Mars. One small word…

Catching the planets and new views of Mars

Looking west after sunset on Friday September 26, the thin waxing crescent moon forms a triangle with Mercury and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. You can see how far Mercury has…
Circled by robots. Mars Express

Explainer: why is everyone vying for a piece of Mars?

The red planet is about to welcome a new visitor: India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) started orbiting Mars on September 24. But MOM is not the only new kid in town. The American MAVEN explorer arrived…

Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

Look up at the night sky this week and you’ll find Mars and Saturn together in the west. Mars stands out with its reddish colouring and you might just be able to detect a faint yellow tinge to Saturn…
The Grand Canyon of Mars – Valles Marineris. NASA,Viking Project,USGS

Lava, not water, formed canyons on Mars

The canyon-like scars which line Mars' crust are seen by many as evidence for liquid water. But a study now suggests that a different kind of fluid – one much less hospitable to life – may actually have…
Life on Mars won’t be boring. Kai Staats

Scientists at work: living on a simulated Mars

According to Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, establishing a permanent presence beyond Earth is the first step humans will take towards the “divergence into a new species”. Plans to visit and even colonise…
MAVEN’s on its way to Mars … but look at what we’ve sent to our other neighbours. NASA/Goddard

Another Mars mission … but what about the rest of the solar system?

Following India’s maiden Mars probe launch earlier in the month, last week saw the successful launch of the Martian Atmospheres and Volatiles Evolution mission, or MAVEN for short. With the second spacecraft…
Along with pictures and samples from Mars' surface, meteorites provide great insight into the planet’s geological history. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre

Sparkling meteorite provides a glimpse of Martian history

Our interest in our near-neighbour Mars – the hope of finding life there, or of possibly colonising it in the future – has driven several orbiting missions to the planet. These produced very detailed maps…

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