Planet Earth has been home to humankind for over 200,000 years, but with a population of 7.3 billion and counting and limited resources, this planet might not support us forever. Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive. With climate change, pollution, deforestation, pandemics and population growth, our own planet is becoming increasingly precarious.
We think of comets as beautiful glowing balls of light streaking across our skies with their long sweeping tails, yet comets are so much more than just a cosmic firework display. Comets have a uniquely important place in modern science. As time machines from the early universe, they could hold the key to unlock the secrets of the cosmos. Comets could even be the origin of life itself. We follow the incredible odyssey of a comet as it sails through the solar system, watching it's every move as it evolves from a dormant chunk of ice and rock into a tumbling, violently active nucleus engulfed in a gaseous haze. What we learn is a revelation; comets are even more mysterious and fascinating than we had ever imagined.
With repeated triumphs and new challenges comes increasing risk, until loss breaks the pattern. The white-knuckle suspense thriller of Apollo 13's famous near-disaster is only a triumphant prelude to darker moments ahead. The launch of the space shuttle program promises routine trips to Earth orbit for many new astronauts. But just when that promise seems fulfilled, routine shuttle launches begin to bore the public. NASA responds by training a school-teacher to fly, in order to teach children lessons from space. Christa McAuliffe's life is tragically cut short as she and the rest of the crew perish aboard the shuttle Challenger. All missions are halted. Eventually the shuttle returns to orbit, for fifteen years of successful missions until disaster strikes again with the shocking loss of Columbia. It would be the beginning of the end for the shuttle.
NASA may have just gotten one step closer to the answering the question: are we alone? The Spitzer Telescope has made a groundbreaking discovery of exoplanets that could be similar to our own. And as Kepler also continues its search, our understanding of the universe continues to be redefined.
It is one of the most baffling questions that scientists can ask: how big is the Universe that we live in? Horizon follows the cosmologists who are creating the most ambitious map in history - a map of everything in existence. And it is stranger than anyone had imagined - a Universe without end that stretches far beyond what the eye can ever see. And, if the latest research proves true, our Universe may just be the start of something even bigger. Much bigger.
The first second of the Universe, the creation of everything when space, time, matter and energy burst into existence. It is the most important second in history, which seals the Universe's fate and defines everything that comes after - including us.
Beneath the hood of your car lies the history of the Universe. The iron in your chassis, the gold in your stereo and the copper in your electronics all owe their existence to violent cosmic events that took place billions of years ago.