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Pangea Ultima. Illustration of the position of Earth's continents around 250 million years in the future. A new supercontinent, Pangea Ultima, has formed. The landlocked sea at centre used to be the Indian Ocean. Surrounding it are what used to be Asia (upper right and centre right), South America (lower left), and Africa (upper centre). Europe is at top centre. North America is at upper left. The Atlantic Ocean no longer exists. South America is joining with South-East Asia, with Australia already joined to the mainland. The continents are slowly moved over the surface of the Earth by currents in the fluid mantle below the crust. Many continents and supercontinents have formed and broken up during the 4.5-billion-year history of the Earth.

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Mars exploration, illustration. Astronauts using advanced scanning technology and robotic machines to explore Mars. Mars is a rocky desert world with no surface water. Its gravity is about one third of that on Earth. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and surface temperatures are well below freezing. Martian astronauts will have to breathe their own air supply and wear heated spacesuits. Human missions to explore Mars have been planned since the 1950s, usually involving a period of 10 to 30 years to develop the necessary technology and resources.

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Future smart home, illustration. The futuristic technology present in this high-rise apartment includes a domestic robot, a robotic vacuum cleaner, a smart shower and toilet, an electronic newspaper, a smart fridge, advanced cooking technology, and cameras and sensors using facial recognition.

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Future hi-tech school, illustration. The futuristic technology present in this school includes holographic teachers and projections, electronic pens, multimedia courses, digital desks and tablet screens, and biometric access terminals.

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Future chemistry lesson, illustration. Student using futuristic holographic technology to study molecular structures and carry out virtual laboratory experiments during a chemistry lesson.

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Future hi-tech city space, illustration. The futuristic technology present in this public city space includes the use of exoskeletons when moving heavy objects, the use of bionic arms (basketball player), a robotic security guard, digital information signs, emergency medical stations with bags of artificial blood, and neural implants (chess players). Non-visible changes in the people using this space include genetic modifications and internal body implants.

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Future bionic eye, illustration. These designs for bionic eyes are based on cortical implants (left) and retinal implants (right). Images from an external camera pass to a video processing unit, to an antenna, and then to the implant which stimulates the cortical region of the brain, or the retina, to provide the sensation of vision. The quality of the resulting vision can range from perfect clarity ('E' at bottom left) to distinguishing less well-defined regions of light and dark (pixellated 'E', lower left). Future advances may include adding to the range of human sight to produce a superhuman level of vision.

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Exoskeleton-aided running, illustration. Mechanical exoskeletons are designed to be fitted to the body to allow enhanced capabilities such as increased speed, power and endurance. The example shown here is fitted to the legs to allow faster running. They could also be used as a form of travel (between walking and using vehicles), in some forms of assisted athletics, and by the military to increase the capability of its soldiers.

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Artwork showing deployment of IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun), a Japanese experimental spacecraft propelled by solar sail technology. Solar sails are large mirrored membranes moved by the pressure of photons (light) emitted from the Sun. The IKAROS probe is the first spacecraft to use solar sail technology as its main propulsion. It was launched in May 2010 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and successfully completed its planned mission.

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Mars hopper spacecraft. Artwork of the landing and hopping phases of a Mars lander. Several proposed designs for spacecraft to explore Mars now use the hopper concept. This involves the lander arriving at the planet's surface using conventional aerobraking (parachute shown). Rockets would be used for a soft landing. Once landed, the rockets could be restarted using carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a fuel. This would enable to lander to launch itself distances of around a kilometre for each hop. Examples of Mars hopper missions are Mars Reconnaissance Lander (announced 2011), and Mars Geyser Hopper (2016 landing).

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This image provided by NASA shows an artist's conception of the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space agency, with participation from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy. Aquarius, the NASA-built primary instrument on the spacecraft, will take NASA's first space-based measurements of ocean surface salinity, a key missing variable in satellite observations of Earth that links ocean circulation, the global balance of freshwater and climate. (AP Photo/NASA)

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Illustration of a spacecraft encountering an asteroid.

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Illustration of the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune and Triton, Neptune's largest satellite.

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Alien Craft Approaches Monolith

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Earth

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A conceptual image that shows a UFO landing at an airport.

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A conceptual image of a UFO approching Earth.

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Computer-generated conceptual image depicting the Earth in the aftermath of a comet strike.

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The ESSAIM demonstrator, launched by Ariane 5 in December 2004, is a system of several micro-satellites (hence the name ?swarm' in French) for analysis of the electro-magnetic environment of the Earth's surface developed for the French Ministry of Defence's procurement agency DGA. The system also comprises a ground control segment and a ground user segment for data processing. The mission's objective is to assess the operational capability of such a system, paving the way for the next generation. The ESSAIM satellites are based on the Myriade multipurpose micro-satellite product line developed jointly by EADS Astrium and the French Space Agency CNES since 1998. In partnership with Thales Syst?ames Aroports, EADS Astrium delivered the complete turnkey system, including personnel training, launch services and maintenance over the initial three-year period of the programme, which ran up to second half of 2008. The use of this system has since been extended by 2 years.

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This artist's concept depicts NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander a moment before its 2008 touchdown on the arctic plains of Mars. Pulsed rocket engines control the spacecraft's speed during the final seconds of descent.

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