Welcome to the first episode of a new podcast from The Conversation, the world explained by experts. This week we’re talking to researchers about Mars – and Belarus.For the past six months, three different space missions have been on their way to Mars. Now, all three – from the United Arab Emirates, China and the US – are due to arrive at the red planet in February within a few weeks of each other. We talk to three experts, Jim Bell, Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Stefania Paladini, Reader in Economics and Global Security at Birmingham City University and Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Astrophysics at the American University of Sharjah. They explain what these probes and rovers are looking for on Mars – including signs of ancient life – and the politics and symbolism behind the three missions.In our second story we turn to Belarus, where protests continue more than six months after a disputed election. Félix Krawatzek, Senior Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies and Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford, talks through the initial findings from a recent public opinion survey in Belarus – and why he sees similarities between what's happening in Belarus and the protests currently rocking Russia following the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. And Ina Skosana, health and medicine editor at The Conversation in Johannesburg, South Africa, gives us her story recommendations.The Conversation Weekly is hosted by Gemma Ware and Dan Merino. The show is co-produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Visit The Conversation for full credits. Further reading:Bringing Mars rocks back to Earth – Perseverance Rover lands on Feb. 18, a lead scientist explains the tech and goals, by Jim Bell, Professor of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University How Mars became the prize for the new space race – and why China is hellbent on winning it, by Stefania Paladini, Reader in Economics and Global Security at Birmingham City UniversityBelarus protests: why people have been taking to the streets – new data, by Félix Krawatzek, Senior Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies and Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford and Gwendolyn Sasse, Professor in Comparative Politics, Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College, University of OxfordResults from Novavax vaccine trials in the UK and South Africa differ: why, and does it matter? by Shabir Mahdi, Professor of Vaccinology and Director of the SAMRC Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytical Research Unit, University of the WitwatersrandHow former president Rawlings pioneered heritage tourism in Ghana – in his own words, by Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, Associate Professor & Director, Christiansborg Archaeological Heritage Project & Adjunct Lecturer, University of Massachusetts Amherst See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.