On a cosmic time scale, human history is as brief as the blink of an eye. By compressing all 13.8 billion years of time into a 10 minute scale, this video shows just how young we truly are, and just how ancient and vast our universe is. Starting with the big bang and culminating in the appearance of homo sapiens, this experience follows the unfolding of time at 22 million years per second, adhering closely to current scientific understanding.
How and when will the Universe end? Gravity and dark matter are poised to annihilate the Universe in a big crunch. Expansion and dark energy may tear it apart. Or, a phase transition could kill us tomorrow in a cosmic death bubble.
The expanding universe is a complicated place. During inflation the universe expanded faster than light, but that's something that actually happens all the time, it's happening right now. This doesn't violate Einstein's theory of relativity since nothing is moving through space faster than light, it's just that space itself is expanding such that far away objects are receding rapidly from each other. Common sense would dictate that objects moving away from us faster than light should be invisible, but they aren't. This is because light can travel from regions of space which are superluminal relative to us into regions that are subluminal. So our observable universe is bigger than our Hubble sphere - it's limited by the particle horizon, the distance light could travel to us since the beginning of time as we know it.
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.
The first episode of Space Voyages looks at the Mars Curiosity Rover - an incredible 21st century machine. And it would never have been possible without the accomplishments of early NASA astronauts and engineers. Everything was new – rocket science, astronaut survival – even simply steering in space! This is the story of how both humans and robots laid the foundations for space exploration that continues today.