Could human settlements on Mars become reality as early as 100 years from now? Artificial micro organisms created with the latest techniques in synthetic biology could be used to produce resources such as iron, energy, and food directly on the planet itself. What would this new "Earth" look like?
Today on Crash Course Astronomy, Phil explains comets. Comets are chunks of ice and rock that orbit the Sun. When they get near the Sun the ice turns into gas, forming the long tail, and also releases dust that forms a different tail. We’ve visited comets up close and found them to be lumpy, with vents in the surface that release the gas as ice sublimates. Eons ago, comets (and asteroids) may have brought a lot of water to Earth -- as well as the ingredients for life.
Sagan reflects on the future of humanity and the question of "who speaks for Earth?" when meeting extraterrestrials. He discusses the very different meetings of the Tlingit people and explorer Jean-Francois de La Perouse with the destruction of the Aztecs by Spanish conquistadors, the looming threat of nuclear warfare, and the threats shown by destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia. The episode ends with an overview of the beginning of the universe, the evolution of life, and the accomplishments of humanity and makes a plea to mankind to cherish life and continue its journey in the cosmos. The Cosmos Update notes the preliminary reconnaissance of planets with spacecraft, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa, and measures towards the reduction of nuclear weapons.