A new age of space exploration, and exploitation, is dawning. But surprisingly, some of the boldest efforts at putting humans into space are now those of private companies started by a handful of maverick billionaire businessmen. Brian Cox gains exclusive access behind the scenes at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Spaceport America, exploring what is really happening in privately financed space flight right now. From space tourism to asteroid mining, and even dreams of colonies on Mars, these new masters of the universe refuse to limit their imaginations. But are private companies led by Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk really going to be able to pull this off? How will they overcome the technical challenges to achieve it? And is it really a good idea, or just a fool's errand? Cox meets key players in the story - Bezos, founder of Blue Origin as well as Amazon, and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. He wants to find out how entrepreneurs - and engineers - really plan to overcome the daunting challenges of human space travel. It certainly hasn't been easy so far. Jeff Bezos has sold a further billion dollars of Amazon stock this year to fund Blue Origin. Branson has been working on Galactic for more than a decade. Lives have been lost. And some companies have already all but given up. But real progress has been made too. The origins of the new space boom, the X-prize in 2004, proved that reusable space craft could be built by private enterprise. Now the challenge is to work out how to run reliable, safe, affordable services that will show a return on the massive financial investments. Sixteen years since Dennis Tito became the first civilian in space, Cox explores the hardware and companies that are aiming to make daily tourist flights to space. Beyond mass space travel, and even space mining and manufacturing, the dream of Elon Musk and others is true space exploration. His company, SpaceX, already delivers supplies to the International Space Station, and their next step is delivering astronauts too. But their true ambition is to ensure the survival of the human race by crossing our solar system and colonizing Mars in the next decade. Could commercial spaceflight companies eventually make us a space-faring civilization?
Quantum theory, the best explanation of how atoms and anything smaller behave, is so weird even scientists who have mastered it find it baffling. But bit by bit scientists are finding maybe it's not so weird as comparable behavior is discovered in our every day world. It's just that no one noticed before.
For two years BBC cameras have followed, Dr Sheperd Doeleman of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the work of the Event Horizon Telescope project team, a collective of the top scientific minds from around the world. The project combines radio observatories and telescope facilities from around the world to make up a virtual telescope with a diameter spanning the entire planet. This mega-telescope’s ultimate mission is to capture the first image ever of a black hole. Although the concept of black holes has been long assumed to be fact, the Event Horizon Telescope’s success would definitively prove the existence of this scientific phenomena for the first time – and provide clear visual evidence. The programme brings viewers into the laboratories, behind the computer screens and beside the telescopes of what may prove to be one of the great astrophysical achievements in human history.
2019 • Astronomy
Tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, lightning and floods – for us these destructive forces are symptoms of Earth's creative energy. The weather on Earth is one of the drivers for life and even the most violent and destructive storms create new opportunities for life to flourish. In our quest to discover if we are alone in the universe, we have recently hit upon a surprising new approach — we shouldn't just look for worlds, we should look for weather. What is true of Earth could also be true of other planets throughout the whole universe. Across the immense distances of space, find chaotic weather — find that megastorm — and maybe we will find alien life.
The Earth is an amazing place. It provides everything needed to sustain billions of creatures, plants and human civilization. We owe our very existence today to the planet's turbulent past. Our world was formed by a series of cataclysms, from the most powerful blast in the Universe to a planetary collision that could have destroyed it. Yet without these events, the Earth would not exist. Nor we. Could the same extraordinary chain of events have created other earth-like planets elsewhere in the Universe? Inhabited by creatures like us? The odds seem slim. But the incredible story of the birth of our world reveals that earths must be abundant. The question is no longer "are we alone" but "how far away are our neighbors?"