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BBC Inside Science

300 EpisodesProduced by BBC Radio 4Website

Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.


Orion Launch; Fake Mars trip; XDNA; Richard the Third's skeleton

A NASA space capsule, Orion, that could transport humans to Mars is due to make its maiden flight. Given that this is a first outing, there will be no people aboard. The capsule will orbit the earth twice in four and a half hours, before splashing down in the Pacific. BBC correspondent Jonathan Amos is on location at Cape Canaveral and gives Adam the latest news.

This is a step towards a crewed mission to Mars. But how do humans cope with being confined for the 8 months it takes to get there? The European Space Agency studied this question in 2010. 6 volunteers were shut up in a replica space shuttle for over a year. Engineer Diego Urbina was one of them. He shares his thoughts on taking part in a fake Mars mission.

Philip Holliger from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge heads the team that two years ago built XNA, a set of genetic molecules that behave just like DNA, but are man-made. Like DNA, those XNAs didn't actually do that much, but this week, the team has published a paper where they have got them working. These are the first synthetic enzymes on Earth.

Back in 2012, a shallow grave was uncovered underneath a car park in Leicester. Evidence suggested the skeleton in it was King Richard the Third. Finally this week, the DNA confirmation by geneticist Turi King is in. And something is rotten in the state of his lineage. Kevin Schurer, historian, and Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the dig, talk us through the DNA anomaly that hints at infidelity in the royal line.

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