To experience a simulated mission to Mars and discover how space is helping to combat climate change, join ESA at the Science Swindon Festival of Tomorrow on 18-20 February.

Over 5000 people are set to attend the virtual event to learn about how the latest science and engineering innovations are tackling the world’s greatest challenges.

ESA’s involvement will highlight how space technology is pushing the boundaries of exploration and benefiting life on Earth.

Exploring Mars

February is proving to be busy for the Red Planet. It has already seen the dawn of a new martian year, and three new spacecraft are set to arrive at the planet before the month is out. But what are these missions aiming to achieve? And what does the future of Mars exploration hold?

ESA/Auroch Digital Mars Horizon game

These questions will be answered by Paul Smith, robotic exploration programme manager at the UK Space Agency, during a stream of the simulation strategy game ‘Mars Horizon’.

Created by Auroch Digital with support from ESA and the UK Space Agency, the game allows players to build their own space agency and lead it from the dawn of the space age to landing an astronaut on the Red Planet.

Paul will be joined by Allie Liguori of Auroch Digital and eirawave, a gamer and streamer. As they create their own virtual space programme, they will discuss how the game was created and current and future real-life Mars exploration efforts, including the Mars Sample Return Campaign.

As part of the campaign, which is a collaboration between NASA and ESA, three carefully timed missions are foreseen to collect, store, retrieve and return pristine samples to Earth for analysis.

The first mission – carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover – is due to arrive at the Red Planet this week.

Access the video

The stream begins at 14:00 GMT (15:00 CET) on Saturday 20 February.

Curbing climate change – Observing Earth

Closer to home, orbiting satellites are beaming information to Earth that is helping people to cut planet-warming emissions.

These efforts will be explored in a panel discussion between four UK experts working as part of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, a research programme that transforms satellite data into global, long-term climate observations.

Data from the initiative is enabling climate modellers to better predict changes to the vast polar ice sheets, oceans and forests as the world continues to heat up.

Using these forecasts, governments, businesses and organisations can make sustainable decisions and keep to the Paris Agreement, an international treaty put in place to limit global warming and help society adapt to its effects.

Climate from Space: Sea surface

ESA has also made its climate data available for the public to explore via its ‘Climate from Space’ website, which will be showcased at the festival. The site explains how and why the planet’s environment is changing.

The session’s participants include Andrew Shepherd, professor of Earth observation at the University of Leeds, and Darren Ghent, a climate scientist at the University of Leicester.

They will be joined by Shaun Quegan, professor at the University of Sheffield and a member of the National Centre for Earth Observation, and Shubha Sathyendranath of the Remote Sensing Group at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

The conversation starts at 17:00 GMT (18:00 CET) on Saturday 20 February.

You can book your ticket online to access the whole festival, which includes live shows and talks, a virtual planetarium, and dozens of exhibitor booths.

The event sponsors include ESA, the UK Space Agency and UK Research and Innovation.

ESA, photos ESA and ESA/Auroch Digital Ltd