In 2020, mankind is about to march on Mars, and several spacecraft including three landers are about to head to the red planet. NASA will launch the 2020 Mars Probe, which will collect Martian rock samples in preparation for sending it back to Earth in future missions. The probe will also be equipped with a small detachable unmanned helicopter. China will launch its first lander “Mars One”, which will be equipped with a small rover. If the parachute problem can be resolved successfully, the Russian spacecraft will send the European Space Agency (ESA) rover to Mars. The United Arab Emirates plans to launch an orbiter, which is the first mission to Mars carried out by an Arab country.
Big starry sky, big data
Following the successful photographing of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy in 2019, which caused a media sensation, the “Event Horizon Telescope” project plans to release a new result in 2020 about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This time there may be more than one picture, maybe even a video. Later in 2020, the European Space Agency’s “Gaia” project will update its 3D map of the Milky Way, which has significantly changed scientists’ understanding of the structure and evolution of the Milky Way. Gravitational wave astronomers observed the space-time ripples caused by cosmic collisions in 2019. In 2020, they will further uncover the secrets of cosmic collisions, including not only many black hole merging phenomena, but also black holes and star collisions that were previously invisible.
The giant collider of particle physics
The European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) hopes to raise funds for the future construction of a large collider this year. The European Particle Physics Laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland will hold a special council meeting in Budapest in May, at which time the laboratory’s new plan for the European Particle Physics Strategy will be decided. CERN’s proposal includes various options for future colliders. The laboratory hopes to build a 100-kilometer machine with 6 times the power of the Large Hadron Collider and a construction cost of up to 23.4 billion US dollars. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago in the United States will announce the results of the long-awaited muon experiment, which aims to accurately determine the behavior of muons (a particle heavier than electrons) in a magnetic field. Physicists hope to find previously unknown elementary particles through extremely small anomalies.
The large-scale project of synthetic biologists to reconstruct Saccharomyces cerevisiae will be completed in 2020. Researchers have succeeded in replacing genetic codes in many simple organisms in the past, such as Mycoplasma mycoplasma, but it is more challenging to complete this work in yeast cells because they are very complex. The “Synthetic Yeast 2.0” project is jointly launched by 15 laboratories on 4 continents. The research team has used the synthetic version to replace the DNA on 16 chromosomes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. They also tried to reorganize and edit the genome—or delete certain segments—to understand how Saccharomyces cerevisiae evolved and how to respond to mutations. Researchers hope that genetically engineered yeast cells can produce more products, such as biofuels and drugs, in a more efficient and flexible way.
Preliminary inspection of the effectiveness of the climate defense war
In August 2020, the United Nations Environment Programme will release an important report on geoengineering science and technology to discuss how to deal with climate change. Specific measures include extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and blocking sunlight. Also in 2020, the International Seabed Authority will publish long-awaited regulations to allow seabed mining. Scientists are worried about this-we don’t know what kind of harm this practice will cause to the marine ecosystem, which may further cause catastrophic damage to the already worrying natural environment. In November 2020, we will usher in a real climate event, when the COP26 climate conference (a key moment of the Paris Agreement) will kick off in Glasgow, UK. According to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries must propose new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions so that the global temperature rise does not exceed 2°C, but most countries have been delayed in fulfilling their commitments. The future of the Paris Agreement itself is still up in the air: the United States is expected to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the meeting.
Mosquito Strikes Back
In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a far-reaching experiment is coming to an end. The experiment tested a new technology that is expected to prevent the spread of dengue fever. Researchers put the mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia into nature, allowing Wolbachia to spread in wild mosquito populations. This bacteria can inhibit the mosquito-borne viruses that may cause dengue fever-Chikungunya virus and Zika Virus-replication. Small-scale tests of the technology in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil have shown good prospects. Also promising is a malaria vaccine, which will be tested on Bico Island in Equatorial Guinea. The World Health Organization hopes to eliminate sleeping sickness (also known as African trypanosomiasis) by 2020, which is a public health problem. This notorious disease is spread by tsetse flies.
U.S. election will finally settle
The results of the US general election will be announced in November 2020. The results of the election may have a significant impact on science, especially climate science. Once re-elected, Trump may continue to overthrow the climate policy of his predecessor and ensure that the United States formally withdraws from the Paris Agreement the day after the election. If the Democratic Party wants to thwart these measures, it must successfully run for president or obtain a majority in both houses of Congress. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are in fierce competition.
Overcome the pressure and move towards room temperature superconductivity
Physicists hope to create a conductive material that has no resistance at room temperature-this superconducting material can currently only work under pressures of millions of kilopascals. In 2018, the “Lanthanum Superhydride” broke all the previous temperature records for superconductivity. Researchers hope to make persistent efforts to synthesize superconducting yttrium hydride at 53°C.
A new era of batteries
Companies large and small are planning to start selling perovskite-based solar cells. Compared with the silicon crystals used in traditional solar panels, perovskite is cheaper and easier to produce, so it is very promising. When combined with silicon in “tandem” cells, perovskite is expected to produce the most efficient solar panels on the market. The energy industry may reach another milestone during the Tokyo Olympics in July, when Toyota is expected to launch its first prototype car powered by a “solid-state” lithium-ion battery. This battery uses solid materials to replace the traditional liquid used to separate the internal electrodes of the battery, thereby increasing the battery’s energy storage. Although solid electrolyte batteries are more durable, their charging speed is often slower.