Drinking yesterday's coffee again and again - how space tech can help on Earth
Patrick Atack

In the second part of Juliet Mann's conversation with Director General of the European Space Agency Jan Woerner as part of the virtual 2020 Web Summit, the pair discussed efforts to develop artificial intelligence to aid in the search for natural intelligence on other worlds. 

Woerner pointed out that technology developed to keep astronauts alive in space - such as the purification system on the International Space Station that allows water to be recycled after being consumed - is used on Earth as well. 

Looking forward, Woerner said he hopes to see European astronauts "on the surface of the Moon… within this decade."

But any exploration of Mars is still further in the future, at least in part because Mars is simply further away from Earth. He explained that only advances in technology would allow such a long journey, invoking the memory of Apollo 13 which had developed a fault on the way to the Moon. 

Those NASA astronauts were able to make it back to Earth relatively quickly, but a similar return from Mars with a serious fault would be nearly impossible, as the journey would take at least two years. 

Click here to watch Part One of this conversation on why we should not go back to the moon