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21st century»2030-2039»




The High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST) is operational

The High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST) is a major new space observatory that is placed at Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, orbiting the Sun about a million miles from Earth. It was proposed in 2015 by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURU), the organisation running Hubble and other telescopes on behalf of NASA. Reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences in 2020 and subsequently approved by Congress, the HDST is deployed and operational during the 2030s.* With a diameter of 11.7 metres, it is much larger than both Hubble (2.4 m) and the James Webb telescope (6.5 m).

The HDST is designed to locate dozens of Earthlike planets in our local stellar neighbourhood. It is equipped with an internal coronagraph – a disk that blocks light from the central star, making a dim planet more visible. A starshade is eventually added that can float miles out in front of it to perform the same function. Exoplanets are imaged in direct visible light, as well as being spectroscopically analysed to determine their atmospheres and confirm the presence of water, oxygen, methane, and other organic compounds.

Tens of thousands of exoplanets have been catalogued since Kepler and other missions of the previous decades. With attention now focused on the most promising candidates for biosignatures, the possibility of detecting the first signs of alien life is greatly increased during this time.

The HDST is 100 times more sensitive than Hubble. Peering into the deep universe, it can resolve objects only 300 light years in diameter, located at distances of 10 billion light years – the nucleus of a small galaxy, for example, or a gas cloud on the way to forming a new star system.* It can study extremely faint objects, up to 20 times dimmer than anything that can be seen from large, ground-based telescopes.

The UV sensitivity of the HDST can be used to map the distribution of hot gases lying outside the perimeter of galaxies. This reveals the structure of the so-called "cosmic web" that galaxies are embedded inside, and shows how chemically enriched gases flow in and out of galaxies to fuel star formation. Individual stars like our Sun can be picked out from 30 million light years away.

Closer to home, the HDST is capable of imaging many features in our own Solar System with spectacular resolution and detail, such as the icy plumes from Europa and other moons, or weather conditions on the gas giants. It can search for remote, hidden members of our Solar System in the Kuiper Belt and beyond. The total cost of the telescope is approximately $10 billion.


high definition space telescope hdst 2030 2030s timeline future
Image credit: D. Ceverino, C. Moody, and G. Snyder, and Z. Levay (STScI)




Global population is reaching crisis point

Rapid population growth and industrial expansion is having a major impact on food, water and energy supplies. During the early 2000s, there were six billion people on Earth. By 2030, there are an additional two billion, most of them from poor countries. Humanity's footprint is such that it now requires the equivalent of two whole Earths to sustain itself in the long term. Farmland, fresh water and natural resources are becoming scarcer by the day.*


2030 earth population globe global crisis


The extra one-third of human beings on the planet means that energy requirements have soared, at a time when crude oil supplies are in terminal decline. A series of conflicts has been unfolding in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, at times threatening to spill over into Europe. With America involved too, the world is teetering on the brink of a major global war.

There is the added issue of climate change, with CO2 levels reaching almost 450 parts per million. As a result, natural feedbacks are kicking in on a global scale. This is most apparent in the Arctic, where melting permafrost is now venting almost one gigatonne of carbon annually.** There are signs that a tipping point has been reached, which is manifesting itself in the form of runaway environmental degradation. Nature's ecosystems are changing at a speed and scale rarely witnessed in Earth's history. This is also adding to food shortages, crop yields falling by up to one third in some regions* and prices of some crops more than doubling,* with devastating impacts on the world's poor.

The urban population, which stood at 3.5 billion in 2010, has now surged to almost 5 billion. Resource scarcity, economic and political factors, energy costs and mounting environmental issues are forcing people into ever more crowded and high-density areas. Many cities are merging to form vast sprawling metropolises with hundreds of millions of people. In some nations, those living in urban areas make up over 90% of the population.*

By 2030, urban areas occupy an additional 463,000 sq mi (741,000 sq km) globally, relative to 2012. This is equivalent to more than 20,000 new football fields being added to the global urban area every day for the first three decades of the 21st century. Almost $30 trillion has been spent during the last two decades on transportation, utilities and other infrastructure. Some of the most substantial growth has been in China which boasts an urban population approaching one billion and has spent $100 billion annually just on its own projects. Much of the Chinese coastline has been transformed into what is essentially a giant urban corridor. Turkey is another region that has witnessed phenomenal urban development.


2030 urban population
Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030. Credit: Boston University's Department of Geography and Environment


All of this expansion is having a major impact on the surrounding environment. In addition to cities, new networks of road, rail and utilities have been built, crisscrossing the landscape and cutting through major wildlife zones.* What were previously protected areas are now opening up for resource exploitation and food production. Numerous species are reclassified as endangered during this period as a result of human encroachment, pollution and habitat destruction.

The accelerating magnitude of these and other problems is leading to a rapid migration from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy. Advances in nanotechnology have resulted in greatly improved solar power. In some countries, such as Japan, photovoltaic materials are being added to almost every new building.* Energy supplies in general are becoming more localised and efficient. This transition is putting increasing strain on fossil fuel companies, since the proven reserves of oil, coal and natural gas far exceed the decided "safe" limit for what can be burned. Because most reserves had already been factored into the market value of these organisations, they now face the prospect of huge financial loss. In response, many companies are fighting tooth and nail against further regulation.*

Another issue which governments have to contend with during this time is the aging population, which has seen a doubling of retired persons since the year 2000. People are living longer, healthier lives. With state pension budgets under increasing strain, the overall effect is a decreased income for senior citizens. Retirement ages are increasing: in America, Asia and most European countries, many employees are forced to work into their 70s. Stress levels for the average person have continued to increase, as the world adapts to these various crises.



China's Long March 9 rocket begins lunar missions

The Long March 9 (officially CZ-9) is a new Chinese rocket, first announced in 2018 and intended for long range missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. With a payload capacity of 140,000 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO) and 50,000 kg to trans-lunar injection, it ranks among the largest rockets ever built – one of the very few appearing in the "super heavy-lift" launch vehicle class.

The Long March 9 is a three-staged rocket with a large core having a diameter of 10 metres, surrounded by a cluster of four engines. Comparable in size to NASA's retired Saturn V, this huge rocket is specifically designed to expand China's capabilities beyond Earth and deeper into space. Sitting atop the rocket is a next-generation, lunar-capable spacecraft with capacity for up to six astronauts.*

The Long March 9 completed feasibility studies in 2021 and received government approval that same year. The 14th Five Year Plan (2021–25) enabled it to proceed to the next stage of development. By 2030, a maiden test flight has occurred, and the launch vehicle is being prepared for use in lunar missions.* Following additional test flights, China lands its first astronauts on the Moon in the early part of this decade.*

This is taking place alongside similar efforts by the United States, which now has its own lunar-capable rocket – NASA's Space Launch System – as well as commercial ventures such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. The two nations, having been engaged in a second space race for the last two decades, are now finally seeing the fruits of their long-term research and development.

The Long March 9 forms a pivotal part of China's operations on the Moon, not only for sending astronauts on short duration missions but also for establishing a more permanent presence. Its huge cargo-carrying capacity allows a scientific outpost to form on the lunar surface during the late 2030s.


china moon 2030
Credit: CCTV



The 6G standard is released

By 2030, a new cellular network standard has emerged that offers even greater speeds than 5G. Early research on this sixth generation (6G) had started during the late 2010s when China,* the USA* and other countries investigated the potential for working at higher frequencies.

Whereas the first four mobile generations tended to operate at between several hundred or several thousand megahertz, 5G had expanded this range into the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. A revolutionary technology at the time, it allowed vastly improved bandwidth and lower latency. However, it was not without its problems, as exponentially growing demand for wireless data transfer put ever-increasing pressure on service providers, while even shorter latencies were required for certain specialist and emerging applications.*

This led to development of 6G, based on frequencies ranging from 100 GHz to 1 THz and beyond. A ten-fold boost in data transfer rates would mean users enjoying terabits per second (Tbit/s). Furthermore, improved network stability and latency – achieved with AI and machine learning algorithms – could be combined with even greater geographical coverage. The Internet of Things, already well-established during the 2020s, now had the potential to grow by further orders of magnitude and connect not billions, but trillions of objects.

Following a decade of research and testing, widespread adoption of 6G occurs in the 2030s. However, wireless telecommunications are now reaching a plateau in terms of progress, as it becomes extremely difficult to extend beyond the terahertz range.* These limits are eventually overcome, but require wholly new approaches and fundamental breakthroughs in physics. The idea of a seventh standard (7G) is also placed in doubt by several emerging technologies that support the existing wireless communications, making future advances iterative, rather than generational.*


2030 mobile technology timeline 6G



Desalination has exploded in use

A combination of increasingly severe droughts, aging infrastructure and the depletion of underground aquifers is now endangering millions of people around the world. The on-going population growth described earlier is only exacerbating this, with global freshwater supplies continually stretched to their limits. This is forcing a rapid expansion of desalination technology.

The idea of removing salt from saline water had been described as early as 320 BC.* In the late 1700s it was used by the U.S. Navy, with solar stills built into shipboard stoves. It was not until the 20th century, however, that industrial-scale desalination began to emerge, with multi-flash distillation and reverse osmosis membranes. Waste heat from fossil fuel or nuclear power plants could be used, but even then, these processes remained prohibitively expensive, inefficient and highly energy-intensive.

By the early 21st century, the world's demand for resources was growing exponentially. The UN estimated that humanity would require over 30 percent more water between 2012 and 2030.* Historical improvements in freshwater production efficiency were no longer able to keep pace with a ballooning population,* made worse by the effects of climate change.

New methods of desalination were seen as a possible solution to this crisis and a number of breakthroughs emerged during the 2000s and 2010s. One such technique – of particular benefit to arid regions – was the use of concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) cells to create hybrid electricity/water production. In the past, these systems had been hampered by excessive temperatures which made the cells inefficient. This issue was overcome by the development of water-filled micro-channels, capable of cooling the cells. In addition to making the cells themselves more efficient, the heated waste water could then be reused in desalination. This combined process could reduce cost and energy use, improving its practicality on a larger scale.*

Breakthroughs like this and others, driven by huge levels of investment, led to a substantial increase in desalination around the world. This trend was especially notable in the Middle East and other equatorial regions; home to both the highest concentration of solar energy and the fastest growing demand for water.


2030 global desalination capacity trend


However, this exponential progress was dwarfed by the sheer volume of water required by an ever-expanding global economy, which now included the burgeoning middle classes of China and India. The world was adding an extra 80 million people each year – equivalent to the entire population of Germany.* By 2017, Yemen was in a state of emergency, with its capital almost entirely depleted of groundwater.* Significant regional instability began to affect the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, as water resources became weapons of war.*

Amid this turmoil, even greater advances were being made in desalination. It was acknowledged that present trends in capacity – though impressive compared to earlier decades – were insufficient to satisfy global demand and therefore a major, fundamental breakthrough would be needed on a large scale.*


2030 desalination technology trend world global freshwater production


Nanotechnology offered just such a breakthrough. The use of graphene in the water filtration process had been demonstrated in the early 2010s.** This involved atom-thick sheets of carbon, able to separate salt from water using much lower pressure, and hence, much lower energy. This was due to the extreme precision with which the perforations in each graphene membrane could be manufactured. At only a nanometre across, each hole was the perfect size for a water molecule to fit through. An added benefit was the very high durability of graphene, potentially making desalination plants more reliable and longer-lasting.

Unfortunately, patents were secured by corporations that initially limited its wider use. A number of high-profile international lawsuits were brought, as entrepreneurs and companies attempted to develop their own versions. With a genuine crisis unfolding, this led to an eventual restructuring of intellectual property rights. By 2030, graphene-based filtration systems have closed most of the gap between supply and demand, easing the global water shortage.* However, the delayed introduction of this revolutionary technology has caused problems in many vulnerable parts of the world.

In the 2040s* and beyond, desalination will play an even more crucial role, as humanity adapts to a rapidly changing climate. Ultimately, it will become the world's primary source of freshwater, as non-renewable sources like fossil aquifers are depleted around the globe.



"Smart grid" technology is widespread in developed nations

In prior decades, the disruptive effects of energy shocks,* alongside ever-increasing demands of growing and industrialising populations, were putting strain on the world's power grids. Blackouts occurred in the worst-hit regions, with consumers becoming more and more conscious of their energy use and taking measures to either monitor and/or cut back their consumption. This already precarious situation was exacerbated by the relatively ancient infrastructure in many countries. Much of the grid at the beginning of the 21st century was extremely old and inefficient, losing more than half of its available electricity during production, transmission and usage. A convergence of business, political, social and environmental issues forced governments and regulators to finally address this problem.

By 2030, integrated smart grids are becoming widespread in the developed world,** the main benefit of which is the optimal balancing of demand and production. Traditional power grids had previously relied on a just-in-time delivery system, where supply was manually adjusted constantly in order to match demand. Now, this problem is being eliminated due to a vast array of sensors and automated monitoring devices embedded throughout the grid. This approach had already emerged on a small scale, in the form of smart meters for individual homes and offices. By 2030, it is being scaled up to entire national grids.

Power plants now maintain constant, real-time communication with all residents and businesses. If capacity is ever strained, appliances instantly self-adjust to consume less power, even turning themselves off completely when idle and not in use. Since balancing demand and production is now achieved on a real-time, automatic basis within the grid itself, this greatly reduces the need for "peaker" plants as supplemental sources. In the event of any remaining gap, algorithms calculate the exact requirements and turn on extra generators automatically.

Computers also help adjust for and level out peaks and troughs in energy demand. Sensors in the grid can detect precisely when and where consumption is highest. Over time, production can be automatically shifted according to the predicted rise and fall in demand. Smart meters can then adjust for any discrepancies. Another benefit of this approach is allowing energy providers to raise electricity prices during periods of high consumption, helping to flatten out peaks. This makes the grid more reliable overall, since it reduces the number of variables that need to be accounted for.

Yet another advantage of the smart grid is its capacity for bidirectional flow. In the past, power transmission could only be done in one direction. Today, a proliferation of local power generation, such as photovoltaic panels and fuel cells, means that energy production is much more decentralised. Smart grids now take into account homes and businesses which can add their own surplus electricity to the system, allowing energy to be transmitted in both directions through power lines.


smart grid 2030 technology


This trend of redistribution and localisation is also making large-scale renewables more viable, since the grid is now adaptable to the intermittent power output of solar and wind. On top of this, smart grids are also designed with multiple full load-bearing transmission routes. This way, if a broken transmission line causes a blackout, sensors instantly locate the damaged area while electricity is rerouted to the affected area. Crews no longer need to investigate multiple transformers to isolate a problem, and blackouts are reduced as a result. This also prevents any kind of domino effect from setting off a rolling blackout.

Overall, this new "internet of energy" is far more sustainable, efficient and reliable. Energy costs are reduced, while paving the way to a post-carbon economy. Countries that quickly adapt smart grids are better protected from oil shocks, while greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by almost 20 per cent in some nations.* As the shift to clean energy continues, this situation will only improve, expanding to even larger scales. Regions begin merging their grids together on a country-to-country, and eventually continent-wide, basis.*



An interstellar message arrives at Luyten's Star

Luyten's Star (GJ 273) is a red dwarf located about 12.4 light-years from Earth. Despite its relatively close proximity, it has a visual magnitude of only 9.9, making it too faint to be seen with the naked eye. It was named after Willem Luyten, who, in collaboration with Edwin G. Ebbighausen, first determined its high proper motion in 1935. Luyten's star is one-quarter the mass of the Sun and has 35% of its radius.

In March 2017, two planets were discovered orbiting Luyten's Star. The outer planet, GJ 273b, was a "Super Earth" with 2.9 Earth masses and found to be lying in the habitable zone, with potential for liquid water on the surface. The inner planet, GJ 273c, had 1.2 Earth masses, but orbited much closer, with an orbital period of only 4.7 days.

In October 2017, a project known as "Sónar Calling GJ 273b" was initiated. This would send music through deep space in the direction of Luyten's Star in an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. The project – organised by Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) and Sónar (a music festival in Barcelona, Spain) – beamed a series of radio signals from a radar antenna at Ramfjordmoen, Norway. The first transmissions were sent on 16th, 17th and 18th October, with a second batch in April 2018.

This became the first radio message ever sent to a potentially habitable exoplanet. The message included 33 music pieces of 10 seconds each, by artists including Autechre, Jean Michel Jarre, Kate Tempest, Kode 9, Modeselektor and Richie Hawtin. Also included were scientific and mathematical tutorials sent in binary code, designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials; a recording of an unborn baby girl's heartbeat; along with poetry and political statements about humans.

Due to the lag from light speed over a distance of 70 trillion miles, the earliest possible date for a response to arrive back would be 2042.*


interstellar message 2030 Luytens star
Credit: Sonar



Depression is the number one global disease burden

When measured by years of life lost, depression has now overtaken heart disease to become the leading global disease burden.* This includes both years lived in a state of poor health and years lost due to premature death. Principle causes of depression include debt worries, unemployment, crime, violence (especially family violence), war, environmental degradation and disasters. The on-going economic stagnation around the world is a major contributing factor. However, progress is being made with destigmatising mental illness.*


depression 2030 global disease burden 2030



Child mortality is approaching 2% globally

Childhood mortality, defined as the number of children dying under the age of five, was a major issue during the late 20th century. In 1970, more than 14% of children worldwide never saw their 5th birthday, while in Africa the figure was even higher at over 24%. The gap between rich and poor nations was staggering, with a mortality rate of only 24 per 1,000 live births in the most industrialised countries, an order of magnitude lower.*

Improvements in medicine, education, economic opportunity and living standards led to a fall in child deaths over subsequent decades. More and more children were being saved by low-tech, cost-effective, evidence-based measures. These included vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bed nets, improved family care and breastfeeding practices, and oral rehydration therapy. The empowerment of women, the removal of social and financial barriers to accessing basic services, new innovations that made the supply of critical services more available to the poor and increasing local accountability were policy interventions that reduced mortality and improved equity.

The U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals included the ambitious target of reducing by two-thirds (between 1990 and 2015) the number of children dying under age five. While this goal failed to be met in time, the progress achieved was still significant – a drop from 92 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births. Public, private and non-profit organisations, keen to build on their experience and ensure the continuation of this trend, made childhood survival a focus of the new sustainable development agenda for 2030. A new objective was set, which aimed to lower the under-five mortality figure to less than 25 per 1,000 live births worldwide.*

With ongoing improvements in public health and education – aided by widespread access to the Internet in developing regions* – this new goal was largely met, with further declines in childhood mortality from 2015 to 2030. Although some regions in Africa still have unacceptably high rates, the overall worldwide figure is around 2% by 2030.*

One recent development now having a major impact is the mass application of gene drives to control mosquito populations, greatly reducing the number of malaria cases.* Huge advances have also been made in the prevention and treatment of HIV, which is no longer the death sentence it used to be. Some diseases have been eradicated by now including polio, Guinea worm, elephantiasis, river blindness, and blinding trachoma.*

However, the progress achieved in recent decades is now threatened by the worsening problems of climate change and other environmental issues, along with antibiotic resistance.* Even discounting these emerging threats, it is simply impractical and impossible to prevent every childhood death with current levels of technology and surveillance. As such, childhood mortality begins to taper off – not reaching zero until much further into the future.


child mortality future trend 2030



The Muslim population has increased significantly

By 2030, the Muslim share of the global population has reached 26.4%. This compares with 19.1% in 1990.* Countries which have seen the largest growth rates include Ireland (190.7%), Canada (183.1%), Finland (150%), Norway (149.3%), New Zealand (146.3%) the United States (139.5%) and Sweden (120.2%). Those which have experienced the biggest falls include Lithuania (-33.3%), Moldova (-13.3%), Belarus (-10.5%), Japan (-7.6%), Guyana (-7.3%), Poland (-5.0%) and Hungary (-4.0%).

A number of factors have driven this trend. Firstly, Muslims have higher fertility rates (more children per woman) than non-Muslims. Secondly, a larger share of the Muslim population has entered – or is entering – the prime reproductive years (ages 15-29). Thirdly, health and economic gains in Muslim-majority countries have resulted in greater-than-average declines in child and infant mortality rates, with life expectancy improving faster too.

Despite an increasing share of the population, the overall rate of growth for Muslims has begun to slow when compared with earlier decades. Later this century, both Muslim and non-Muslim numbers will approach a plateau as the global population stabilises.* The spread of democracy* and improved access to education* are emerging as major factors in the slowing fertility rates (though Islam has yet to undergo the sort of renaissance and reformation that Christianity went through).

Sunni Muslims continue to make up the overwhelming majority (90%) of Muslims in 2030. The portion of the world's Muslims who are Shia has declined slightly, mainly because of relatively low fertility in Iran, where more than a third of the world's Shia Muslims live.


2030 muslim population



Full weather modelling is perfected

Zettaflop-scale computing is now available which is a thousand times more powerful than computers of 2020 and a million times more powerful than those of 2010. One field seeing particular benefit during this time is meteorology. Weather forecasts can be generated with 99% accuracy over a two week period.* Satellites can map wind and rain patterns in real time at phenomenal resolution – from square kilometres in previous decades, down to square metres with today's technology. Climate and sea level predictions can also be achieved with greater detail than ever before, offering greater certainty about the long-term outlook for the planet.


full weather modeling future forecasting 2020 2030



Orbital space junk is becoming a major problem for space flight

Space junk – debris left in orbit from human activities – has been steadily building in low-Earth orbit for more than 70 years. It is made up of everything from spent rocket stages, to defunct satellites, to debris left over from accidental collisions. The size of space junk can reach up to several metres, but is most often miniscule particles such as metal shavings and paint flecks. Despite their small size, such pieces of debris often sustain speeds of 30,000 mph – easily fast enough to deal significant damage to a spacecraft. Satellites, rockets and space stations, as well as astronauts conducting spacewalks, have all had to cope with the increasing damage caused by collisions with these particles.

One of the biggest issues with space junk is the fact that it grows exponentially. This trend, along with the increasing number of countries entering space, has made orbital collisions happen almost regularly in recent years. The newest space-faring nations have been particularly affected.

Events similar to the 2009 collision of the US Iridium and Russian Kosmos satellites have raised fears of the so-called Kessler Syndrome. This scenario is where space junk reaches a critical mass, triggering a chain reaction of collisions until virtually every satellite and man-made object in an orbital band has been reduced to debris. Such an event could destroy the global economy and render future space travel almost impossible.

By 2030, the amount of space junk in orbit has tripled, compared to 2011.* Countless millions of fragments can now be found at various levels of orbit. A new generation of shielding for spacecraft and rockets is being developed, along with tougher and more durable space suits for astronauts. This includes the use of "self-healing" nanotechnology materials, though expenses are too high to outfit everything.

Larger chunks of debris have also been impacting on Earth itself more frequently. Though most land in the ocean (since the planet's surface is 70% covered by water), a few crash on land, necessitating early warning systems for people in the affected areas.

Increased regulation has begun to mitigate the growth of space debris, while better shielding and repair technology has reduced the frequency of damage. Increased computing power and tracking systems are also helping to predict the path of debris and instruct spacecraft to avoid the most dangerous areas. Options to physically move debris are also being deployed – including nets and harpoons fired from small satellites, along with ground-based lasers that can push junk into decaying orbits so it burns up in the atmosphere. Despite this, space junk remains an expensive problem for now.




Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) reaches the Jovian system

Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) is a mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) to explore the Jovian system, focussing on the moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.* Launched in 2022, the craft goes through an Earth-Venus-Earth-Earth gravity assist, before finally arriving at Jupiter in 2030. JUICE initially studies Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere, gaining valuable insight into how the gas giant might have originally formed.

For its primary objective, the probe performs a series of flybys around some of the largest Galilean moons. Ganymede, Callisto and Europa are focussed on, since all are believed to hold subsurface liquid water oceans. JUICE records detailed images of Callisto (which has the most heavily cratered surface in the Solar System), while also taking the first complete measurements of Europa's icy crust and scanning for organic molecules that are essential to life.


jupiter 2030 mission JUICE
Credit: ESA


In 2033, the probe enters orbit around Ganymede for the final phase of the mission. The detailed study includes:

This final stage of the mission provides a vast wealth of empirical data.* When combined with new information from Callisto and Europa, it generates an extremely detailed picture of the Galilean moons. JUICE also studies possible locations for future surface landings. Indeed, various plans are now underway to further explore the Jovian system, with mission capabilities being enhanced by a new generation of cheaper and reusable rockets. This includes sample return missions and the first lander to drill down and explore the subsurface liquid oceans.*


jupiter 2030 mission juice
Two possible models of Europa. Credit: NASA



The UK space industry has quadrupled in size

In 2010, the UK government established the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA). This replaced the British National Space Centre and took over responsibility for key budgets and policies on space exploration – representing the country in all negotiations on space matters and bringing together all civil space activities under one single management.

By 2014, the UK's thriving space sector was contributing over £9 billion ($15.2 billion) to the economy each year and directly employing 29,000 people, with an average growth rate of almost 7.5%. Recognising its strong potential, the government backed plans for a fourfold expansion of the industry.* New legal frameworks allowed a spaceport to be established in the UK – triggering growth of space tourism, launch services and other hi-tech companies.

By 2030, the UK has become a major player in the space industry, with a global market share of 10%. Having quadrupled in size, its space industry now contributes £40 billion ($67 billion) a year to the economy and has generated over 100,000 new high-skilled jobs.* The UK has significantly increased its leadership and influence in crucial areas like satellite communications, Earth observation, disaster relief and climate change monitoring. The growth of space-based products and services means the UK is now among the first 100% broadband-enabled countries in the world.* This has also reduced the costs of delivering government services to all citizens, regardless of their location.


uk future space industry 2030 technology timeline



The Lockheed Martin SR-72 enters service

The SR-72 is an unmanned, hypersonic aircraft intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Developed by Lockheed Martin, it is the long-awaited successor to the SR-71 Blackbird that was retired in 1998. The plane combines both a traditional turbine and a scramjet to achieve speeds of Mach 6.0, making it twice as fast as the SR-71 and capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in under an hour. A scaled demonstrator was built and tested in 2018. This was followed by a full-size demonstrator in 2023 and then entry into service by 2030.* The SR-72 is similar in size to the SR-71, at approximately 100 ft (30 m) long. With an operational altitude of 80,000 feet (24,300 metres), combined with its speed, the SR-72 is almost impossible to shoot down.


SR 72 2030 technology timeline
Credit: Lockheed Martin



Half of America's shopping malls have closed

For much of the 20th century, shopping malls were an intrinsic part of American culture. At their peak in the mid-1990s, the country was building 140 new shopping malls every year. But from the early 2000s onward, underperforming and vacant malls – known as "greyfield" and "dead mall" estates – became an emerging problem. In 2007, a year before the Great Recession, no new malls were built in America, for the first time in half a century. Only a single new mall, City Creek Center Mall in Salt Lake City, was built between 2007 and 2012. The economic health of surviving malls continued to decline, with high vacancy rates creating an oversupply glut.*

A number of changes had occurred in shopping and driving habits. More and more people were living in cities, with fewer interested in driving and people in general spending less than before. Tech-savvy Millennials (also known as Generation Y), in particular, had embraced new ways of living. The Internet had made it far easier to identify the cheapest products and to order items without having to be physically there in person. In earlier decades, this had mostly affected digital goods such as music, books and videos, which could be obtained in a matter of seconds – but even clothing was eventually possible to download, thanks to the proliferation of 3D printing in the home.* Many of these abandoned malls are now being converted to other uses, such as housing.


shopping malls 2030 future america



Emerging job titles of today

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2030 jobs



8K VR headsets are common

8K displays (amounting to 33 MP of resolution per eye) are a fairly standard feature of virtual reality (VR) in 2030. These offer quadruple the pixel count of the best consumer VR products from a decade earlier.

Following a long period with little or no activity, the VR industry saw a major revival from around 2015 onwards. A prototype of the Oculus Rift and its subsequent commercial release led to dozens of competitors within a few years, including models with better resolution and fields of view (FOV).

Having initially been a somewhat expensive and niche form of entertainment, VR declined greatly in cost during the 2020s. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its mainstream adoption. Between 2021 and 2028, the industry experienced a compound annual growth rate of 18%.* Virtual, augmented and mixed realities together produced $1.5 trillion in net economic benefits by the end of the decade.*

By 2030, the quality of VR has improved exponentially.* The latest screens now provide breathtaking detail and realism, ultra-low latency, and wide FOV, while a variety of new features are combining to enhance the level of immersion and interactivity still further. For example, most headsets now include as standard the option for a brain-computer interface (BCI) to record users' electrical signals, enabling actions to be directed by merely thinking about them.* Such technology had already begun to emerge some years previously, but has now improved greatly in terms of speed, accuracy and ubiquity.

Non-invasive sensors placed on the scalp are by far the preferred choice for mainstream BCI use. However, more advanced options for invasive BCIs have now begun to emerge, as the technology shifts from purely clinical uses (such as treating paralysis) and into business, leisure and entertainment.* Although still at a niche and experimental phase of development, early adopters willing to undergo surgery and have electrodes touching the surface of their brain can use bidirectional links for both reading and writing information to their neocortex.

In VR gaming, these more invasive BCIs can increase the level of immersion, tricking the senses in ways that bring a player closer to the action. New visual, auditory and tactile sensations are made possible by stimulating both the motor and visual cortex.* These effects are rather limited at this stage and exploited by only the most hardcore gamers – but provide more lifelike ways of interacting with simulated people, objects and environments.

This decade sees much progress with BCI technology as the number of electrodes used in the implants grows by leaps and bounds, enabling larger and more complex brain patterns to be recorded and decoded. In addition to gaming, BCIs gain popularity from the enhancement of wellness functions, such as for guided meditation and the improvement of sleep quality. At the same time, ethical issues are emerging over consent, privacy, identity, and agency, especially when BCIs are combined with AI.


8k virtual reality future 2030



100 terabyte HDDs reach consumer level

As of 2020, consumer-level hard disk drives (HDDs) featured capacities up to a maximum of about 18 terabytes (TB). While solid state drives (SSDs) had been available with greater storage sizes for enterprise-grade users, as well as faster transfer speeds, traditional HDDs remained a relevant and attractive alternative thanks to their much lower costs.

With perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) approaching its limits, even boosted with two-dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR), the capacity of HDDs had seen a reduced rate of growth in the 2010s. However, an innovative technique known as heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) allowed data to be written to much smaller spaces. This provided a major acceleration in storage capacities during the 2020s, creating a new paradigm for HDD with successive generations now able to jump in larger steps of 4TB, 6TB, or even 10TB at a time.

Although data densities continued to grow rapidly, transfer speeds became an increasingly important consideration. Vast storage volumes needed to be accessible at rates commensurate with their size. To boost the IOPS per TB performance of HDDs, multi-actuator drives began to emerge. For example, using two actuators instead of one could almost double throughput.

With 50TB consumer-level HDDs on sale in 2026, hard drive makers continued to innovate and find ways of making data both smaller and faster, driven by the world's ever-growing demand for storage. By 2030, consumer PC users have access to 100TB HDDs, quintupling the figure of a decade earlier.*


future hard disk technology 2030 100tb 100 terabytes



Completion of Saudi Vision 2030

This year sees the realisation of a long-term strategic framework by Saudi Arabia, intended to reduce the country's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as education, health, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism. The key goals of "Saudi Vision 2030" include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil international trade, and promoting a softer and more secular image of the Kingdom.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman first announced the vision in 2016. The Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) then began identifying and monitoring the steps crucial for implementation by 2030. The CEDA established 13 programs, called Vision Realisation Programs, covering the different areas such as energy, finance, housing, quality of life, and transport.

The Kingdom's goals for 2030* included:

• To move Saudi Arabia from the 19th largest economy in the world into the top 15

• To increase non-oil government revenue from SAR 163 billion (US$43.5bn) to at least SAR 1 trillion (US$267bn)

• To increase women's participation in the workforce from 22% to 30%

• To increase small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) contribution to GDP from 20% to 35%

• To increase the private sector's contribution from 40% to 65% of GDP

• To increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of 2.9% to 6%

• To increase the ratio of individuals exercising at least once a week from 13% of the population to 40%

• To increase the average life expectancy from 74 years to 80 years

• To have three Saudi cities be recognised in the top 1% of cities in the world

• To more than double the number of Saudi heritage sites registered with UNESCO

Alongside these socioeconomic measures, proposals for various large-scale projects began to emerge. The developers intended to both improve the country's domestic transport and infrastructure, and to showcase Saudi Arabia to the world as a destination for leisure and investment. They included new retail, hotel, entertainment, cultural and residential megaprojects, as well as industrial, logistics, and corporate facilities.

By far the costliest and most prominent took the form of a $500bn smart city in the northwestern corner of the country. Known as Neom – a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning "new," and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for "future" – this would operate independently from the existing governmental framework, with its own tax and labour laws and an autonomous judicial system. According to its developers, Neom would be "a hub for innovation where global business and emerging players can research, incubate and commercialise ground-breaking technologies to accelerate human progress." In 2021, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the first major development within the Neom zone, a planned city named "The Line".

The Line (as its name suggested) would consist of a long, linear development stretching for over 170 km (105 miles). This huge, continuous urban belt would enable the Red Sea coastline to the west to be linked with mountains and upper valleys in the east. The developers intended for it to redefine the traditional layout of a city by emphasising a strong focus on nature, liveability, health and community connections.

The Line's masterplan called for building "around nature, rather than over it" and specified large areas of land to be preserved for conservation. The need for cars and other vehicles would be eliminated, with all essential daily needs provided within a five-minute walk for every resident. The project would include a system of ultra-high-speed mass transit running its complete length, with businesses and communities also hyper-connected through a digital framework incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The AI would monitor the city, using predictive and data models to optimise daily life for citizens in various ways. The Line would be self-sufficient with locally grown food, powered by 100% clean energy, home to abundant parks and other green spaces, and with sustainable and regenerative practices adopted throughout the city.

The developers completed phase one of The Line by 2025. Following subsequent expansion, its population has reached over a million by 2030* and the city has now boosted Saudi Arabia's economy by SAR 180 billion (US$48bn).*

In addition to advanced technologies, The Line boasts other features. Its location makes it favourable in terms of weather and climate conditions, being one of the few areas in Saudi Arabia to experience snowfall in winter, as well as benefitting from the ocean breeze and aquatic recreation opportunities. Temperatures are 10°C lower than the average for the Arabian Peninsula. As a further geographic advantage, it can also be reached by more than 40% of the world's population in less than a four-hour flight, while 13% of global trade already flows through the Red Sea.

The Line serves as a model for future developments within the Neom zone, while also inspiring other large-scale infrastructure projects both in Saudi Arabia and around the world.




Cargo Sous Terrain becomes operational in Switzerland

The Cargo Sous Terrain is an underground, automated system of freight transport that becomes operational in Switzerland from 2030 onwards.* It is designed to mitigate the increasing problem of road traffic, which has grown by 45% in the region since the mid-2010s. This tube network, including the self-driving carts and transfer stations, is built at a cost of $3.4 billion and is privately financed. The entire project is powered by renewables.

An initial pilot tunnel is constructed 50 metres below ground, with a total length of 41 miles (66 km). This connects Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, with logistics centres near Bern (the capital) in the west. The route includes four above-ground waystations that enable cargo transfers. The pilot tunnel is followed by an expanded network that links Zurich with Lucerne and eventually Geneva, spanning the entire width of the country.

The unmanned, automated vehicles are propelled by electromagnetic induction and run at 19 mph (30 km/hour), operating 24 hours a day. An additional monorail system for packages, in the roof of the tunnel, moves at twice this speed. The Cargo Sous Terrain allows goods to be delivered more efficiently, at more regular intervals, while cutting air and noise pollution, as well as reducing the burden of traffic on overground roads and freight trains.***




The entire ocean floor is mapped

While humans had long ago conquered the Earth's land masses, the deep oceans lay mostly unexplored. In the early years of the 21st century, only 20% of the global ocean floor had been mapped in detail. Even the surfaces of the Moon, Mars and other planets were better understood. With data now becoming as important a commodity as oil, researchers set out to acquire knowledge of the remaining 80% and uncover a potential treasure trove of hidden information.

Seabed 2030 – a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) – aimed to bring together all available bathymetric data to produce a definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030.

As part of the effort, fleets of automated vessels capable of trans-oceanic journeys would cover millions of square miles, carrying with them an array of sensors and other technology. These uncrewed ships, monitored by a control centre in Southampton, UK, would deploy tethered robots to inspect points of interest all the way down to the floor of the ocean, thousands of metres below the surface.

By 2030, the project is largely complete.** The maps provide a wealth of new information on the global seabed, revealing its geology in unprecedented detail and showing the location of ecological hotspots, as well as many shipwrecks, crashed planes, archaeological artefacts and other unique and interesting sites. Commercial applications include the inspection of pipelines, and surveying of bed conditions for telecoms cables, offshore wind farms and so on. However, concerns are raised over the potential impact of new undersea mining technology, the opportunities for which are now greatly increased.





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1 From Cosmic Birth to Living Earths, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy:
Accessed 11th October 2016.

2 HDST Deep Field Viewer, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy:
Accessed 11th October 2016.

3 Averting a perfect storm of shortages, BBC:
Accessed 22nd November 2009.

4 Amount and timing of permafrost carbon release in response to climate warming, Wiley:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

5 Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100, Think Progress:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

6 Warming May Cause Crop Failures, Food Shortages by 2030, National Geographic:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

7 Food price spikes will get worse as extreme weather caused by climate change devastates food production, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

8 UNICEF Urban Population Map, UNICEF:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

9 The Serengeti Highway, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

10 Japan May Require Solar Panels on All New Buildings by 2030, Clean Technica:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

11 Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, Rolling Stone:
Accessed 27th October 2012.

12 This Is China's New Spacecraft to Take Astronauts to the Moon (Photos), Space.com:
Accessed 5th March 2021.

13 China officially plans to move ahead with super-heavy Long March 9 rocket, ARS Technica:
Accessed 5th March 2021.

14 China's super-heavy-lift rocket awaits state approval, to serve in lunar manned mission around 2030: experts, Global Times:
Accessed 5th March 2021.

15 As 5G looms, China's already looking at 6G development, CNET:
Accessed 3rd April 2019.

16 FCC Opens Spectrum Horizons for New Services & Technologies, FCC:
Accessed 3rd April 2019.

17 6G will achieve terabits-per-second speeds, Network World:
Accessed 3rd April 2019.

18 The Truth About Terahertz, IEEE Spectrum:
Accessed 3rd April 2019.

19 China plans 6G mobile with terabit speeds by 2030, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 3rd April 2019.

20 Desalination: An Important Part of Our Water Future, Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist:
Accessed 29th December 2017.

21 World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars: U.N., Reuters:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

22 Charting Our Water Future, 2030 Water Resources Group:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

23 Hot solar cells are the cool way to water and power, New Scientist:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

24 Worldometers:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

25 See 2017.

26 See 2022.

27 There are various data sources for this graph. We have taken a combined average:
• The Pacific Institute
• DesalData.com
• Global Water Intelligence
• International Desalination Association
• The Regional Centre on Urban Water Management
• World Energy Outlook
• World Nuclear Association
• SBI Energy
• GBI Research
• Lux Research

28 A new approach to water desalination, MIT:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

29 A step closer to affordable water desalination, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

30 10 mindblowingly futuristic technologies that will appear by the 2030s, io9:
Accessed 5th August 2013.

31 See 2040.

32 Energy crisis, Wikipedia:
Accessed 20th December 2015.

Accessed 26th December 2012.

34 "'We'll learn an awful lot from those projects,' said DeBlasio. 'This is the first big investment in smart grid, but it will take 20 years to deploy the technology and along the way we will create a body of standards for it,' he added."
See IEEE kicks off smart grid effort in June, EE Times:
Accessed 26th December 2012.

35 Smart Grid Could Shave U.S. Emissions by 2030, Scientific American:
Accessed 26th December 2012.

36 See 2050.

37 Sónar celebrates 25 years of the festival by contacting intelligent extraterrestial life, Sonar:
Accessed 30th November 2017.

38 DEPRESSION: A Global Crisis, World Health Organisation:
Accessed 13th May 2013.

39 Landmark study shows drop in discrimination against people with mental health problems, Time to change:

40 Child mortality estimates, UNICEF:
Accessed 24th September 2016.

41 Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Accessed 24th September 2016.

42 See 2020.

43 Child deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out, 2015 Gates Annual Letter:
Accessed 24th September 2016.

44 See 2029.

45 Child deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out, 2015 Gates Annual Letter:
Accessed 24th September 2016.

46 Superbugs could kill 10 million people a year by 2050, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 24th September 2016.

47 The Future of the Global Muslim Population, Pew Research:
Accessed 11th October 2013.

48 See 2055.

49 See 2055.

50 See 2060.

51 "NASA theorizes that a Zettaflop centric computer is required to accomplish full weather modeling, which could cover a two week time span accurately. Such systems won't see the light of day until 2030."
See IDF Shanghai 2008: The Era of Visual Computing Draws Nigh, Patently Apple:
Accessed 17th March 2010.

52 Ugly Truth of Space Junk: Orbital Debris Problem to Triple by 2030, Space.com:
Accessed 22nd December 2011.

53 Europe to Explore Jupiter's Icy Moons with JUICE Spacecraft, Space.com:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

54 JUICE Science Objectives, ESA:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

55 "The SLS could potentially enable sample return from Jupiter's moon Europa, because it would have the payload capacity to provide shielding for a lander on the surface, and sufficient fuel for propulsive maneuvers out of the gravitational well of Jupiter."
See SLS capability touted for Europa Lander capability, Enceladus sample return, NASASpaceFlight.com:
Accessed 25th October 2012.

56 Government backs UK launch site plan for space tourism, BBC:
Accessed 2nd May 2014.

57 Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2014-2030, Space IGS:
Accessed 2nd May 2014.

58 A UK Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2010 to 2030, Space IGS:
Accessed 2nd May 2014.

59 Hypersonic Successor to Legendary SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane Unveiled, Wired:
Accessed 6th November 2013.

60 Dead malls: Half of America's shopping centres predicted to close by 2030, ABC:
Accessed 25th March 2015.

61 See 2024.

62 Source: The Foresight Network (online survey of futurists).

63 Virtual Reality Market Size Worth $69.60 Billion By 2028 | CAGR: 18.0%, Grand View Research:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

64 Why we believe VR/AR will boost global GDP by $1.5 trillion, PWC:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

65 Virtual reality – future trends, Future Timeline – Data and Trends:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

66 Welcome to 2030: Are you ready for the internet of the senses?, ZDNet:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

67 10 years from now your brain will be connected to your computer, ZDNet:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

68 Gabe Newell on Brain-computer Interfaces: 'We're way closer to The Matrix than people realize', Road to VR:
Accessed 21st April 2021.

69 Seagate: 100TB HDDs Due in 2030, Multi-Actuator Drives to Become Common, Tom's Hardware:
Accessed 1st April 2021.

70 Saudi Vision 2030, Official website:
Accessed 21st February 2021.

71 Oil-free future: What is Saudi Arabia's Neom project, The Times of India:
Accessed 21st February 2021.

72 The Line launch media kit, NEOM:
Accessed 21st February 2021.

73 Swiss Considering $3.4 Billion Cargo Tunnel for Automated Delivery Trucks, IEEE Spectrum:
Accessed 5th October 2016.

74 Cargo sous terrain - Explanation of the system, YouTube (English subtitles):
Accessed 5th October 2016.

75 Cargo Sous Terrain, Official website (English translation):
Accessed 5th October 2016.

76 For additional images, see:
Cargo Sous Terrain
, Amberg Loglay:
Accessed 5th October 2016.

77 Ocean Infinity's Unmanned Robot Ship Fleet Will Map Out the Entire Seabed, Interesting Engineering:
Accessed 8th March 2020.

78 The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, GEBCO:
Accessed 8th March 2020.


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