Technology News Update: From finding the building blocks for life on Mars to breakthroughs in gene editing and the rise of artificial intelligence, here are six major scientific discoveries that shaped the 2010s — and what leading experts say could come next.
We don’t yet know whether there was ever life on Mars — but thanks to a small, six-wheeled robot, we do know the Red Planet was habitable. Shortly after landing on August 6, 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered rounded pebbles — new evidence that rivers flowed there billions of years ago.
The proof has since multiplied, showing there was in fact a lot of water on Mars — the surface was covered in hot springs, lakes, and maybe even oceans.
Curiosity also discovered what NASA calls the building blocks of life, complex organic molecules, in 2014.
And so the hunt continues for signs that Earth-based life is not (or wasn’t always) alone.
Two new rovers will be launched next year — America’s Mars 2020 and Europe’s Rosalind Franklin rovers, looking for ancient microbes.
“Going into the coming decade, Mars research will shift from the question ‘Was Mars habitable?’ to ‘Did (or does) Mars support life?'” said Emily Lakdawalla, a geologist at The Planetary Society.
We had long thought of the little corner of the universe that we call home as unique, but observations made thanks to the Kepler space telescope blew apart those pretensions.
Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission helped identify more than 2,600 planets outside of our solar system, also known as exoplanets — and astronomers believe each star has a planet, meaning there are billions out there.
Kepler’s successor TESS was launched by NASA in 2018, as we scope out the potential for extraterrestrial life.
Expect more detailed analysis of the chemical composition of these planets’ atmospheres in the 2020s, said Tim Swindle, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona.
We also got our first glimpse of a black hole this year thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration.
“What I predict is that by the end of the next decade, we will be making high quality real-time movies of black holes that reveal not just how they look, but how they act on the cosmic stage,” Shep Doeleman, the project’s director, told AFP.