Mars lander failure

The European Space agency has released new images of its doomed Mars lander, which is thought to have disintegrated after hitting the planet’s surface at high speed – rather than touching down gently as planned.

The images show that the craft touched down well within its target landing zone, but that something went catastrophically wrong during the descent. It is thought that the thrusters that slow the craft down only fired for 3-4 seconds rather than the 30 they were required to.


Clever spiders in your garden!

They are creepy, crawly and, for some, a source of irrational fear. Now scientists at Oxford University have found that spiders can hear you from across a room and when you are near them on their garden webs.

The discovery came as a surprise because, technically, spiders do not have ears. However, the latest research shows that the hairs on spiders’ legs are so sensitive that they can detect human speech from several metres away.

They can also control the tension and stiffness of their webs to optimise their sensory powers, helping them locate and identify prey as well as partners.

Curing all known disease

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan have declared their aim to cure, prevent and  manage all disease by the end of the century.

Chan and Zuckerberg will stump up at least $3bn (£2.3bn) for the effort over the next 10 years. That is not a vast sum for the task ahead. The new Francis Crick Institute in London, now filling with 1,400 scientists, could be built and run for 10 years on that. The Wellcome Trust itself will spend £5bn on biomedical research in the next five years alone. But part of Chan and Zuckerberg’s hope is to grow a movement to fund science: where they have led, they want other wealthy individuals to follow.

Mars closest to earth for 11 years

Mars reaches its closest approach to Earth for 11 years this evening at 21:35 GMT. The red planet will be just 75 million kilometres away.

Mars has been steadily approaching, tripling its apparent diameter as seen through telescopes since January. But don’t be deceived by any internet messages claiming that it will appear larger than the full moon. The moon is just 384 thousand kilometres away; Mars will never come that close.

A Marathon in Space!

You could call it an unfair advantage. As tens of thousands of runners start the London marathon on Sunday, another competitor will take up the race unencumbered by endless queues for portable toilets, moving at 17,500mph high above their heads.

But there is nothing unfair about Tim Peake’s marathon plans. The British astronaut who arrived at the International Space Station four months ago will run the 26.2 mile course on a treadmill in a cramped room. How cool is that!!

Climate Change Gloom

Global temperatures in February smashed previous monthly records by an unprecedented amount, according to Nasa data, sparking warnings of a climate emergency and is another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases.