Stellar astronomer and TED Senior Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz works on NASA’s Kepler mission, searching for places in the universe that could support life. So it’s worth a listen when she asks us to think carefully about Mars. In this short talk, she suggests that we stop dreaming of Mars as a place that we’ll eventually move to when we’ve messed up Earth, and to start thinking of planetary exploration and preservation of the Earth as two sides of the same goal. As she says, “The more you look for planets like Earth, the more you appreciate our own planet.”







  • tipping point – the critical point in a situation, process beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place
  • poised – ready to do a particular thing at any moment; prepared and waiting for something to happen
  • to dim – to make or become less bright or distinct
  • habitable – (of a place) good enough for people to live in
  • trove – a collection of objects
  • to sag – to become weaker or less strong
  • to outpace – to surpass in speed
  • embedded – part of
  • tantalizing – tempting
  • vista – a view from a high position
  • lush – fertile, thriving, plentiful
  • self-inflicted – done to yourself
  • hubris – exaggerated pride or self-confidence
  • to surmount – to overcome (a difficulty)

True or False?

1. Kepler telescope provides information whether newly discovered planets might be good enough for people to live in.

2. Planetary-scale environmental changes that have been set in motion can still be reversed.

3. Rovers, like Curiosity, sample the Martian atmosphere.

4. Views from Mars do not resemble any landscape we’re familiar with.

5. The scientist would rather live on a desert on Earth than on Mars.

6. According to the speaker we are not able to create and maintain habitable spaces out of some extreme environments of our world. 

 ANSWERS: 1.T; 2.F; 3F; 4F; 5T; 6F

Practice Makes Perfect

Fill in the gaps in the text below with the words in bold below (make sure their form is correct). In order to check, go to: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-united-arab-emirates-hope-probe-approaches-mars/

maneuver                solar                engine                spacecraft            to launch                   cruise                  to orbit

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) (1) ………… a (2) …………. , dubbed Hope, in July 2020, lofting its first interplanetary mission a little more than a decade after becoming a spacefaring nation at all. Now, after a smooth seven-month (3) ……….. , the UAE is preparing for Hope’s arrival at the Red Planet on Feb. 9. It’s a complex (4) ………… that requires the spacecraft to complete an intense (5) ……….. burn with no support from the mission’s engineers, who are left anxiously awaiting bulletins that the solar system’s geometry delays by 10 minutes.

Formally called Mars Orbit Insertion, tomorrow’s milestone will allow the Hope team to turn its focus to science while making the UAE the fifth entity to (6) ……… the Red Planet. (NASA, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India have preceded it; China will attempt to join the exclusive club just a day later).

Mars also has special relevance in an era of climate change, Al Amiri noted at the virtual event. “Mars makes more sense to explore and to understand, especially the more we want to understand climate change, the more we want to understand how other planets in our (7) ……… system evolve, especially those that look like us,” she said. “The only place that we’re able to look at [as], perhaps, in some form, a future of Earth, is our next-door neighbor.”

 ANSWERS: 1.launched; 2. spacecraft; 3, cruise; 4, maneuver; 5. engine; 6. orbit; 7. solar


  • Do you believe there was life on Mars?
  • Do you think one day people will live on Mars?
  • Would you like to go to Mars one day?
  • Why is Mars red?
  • “Men are from Mars and women from Venus” – what do you make of it?


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People ask all the time whether the money we put into space exploration actually helps us here on Earth. Is it worth the money we’re spending? Trace takes a look at a few recent projects that are helping people here on Earth as we speak!