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Exploring the Moon and Mars – Updates from the Boulby Underground Laboratory

“IS THERE LIFE ON MARS?” ASKED DAVID BOWIE—JUST ONE OF THE ANSWERS BEING SOUGHT BY SCIENTISTS AT BOULBY MINAR 8 ….

 

The Mars Rover…NASA… and a two-way tie in with India are just some of the elements of MINAR 8 – a worldwide science event now in its eighth year which is aimed at bringing scientists and engineers together at Boulby Mine in East Cleveland.

 

Beginning today March 2nd – the Mine Analogue Research (MINAR) event is held over a fortnight each year, at the Boulby Underground Laboratory here at the mine. This year scientific researchers from across Europe will join those from NASA in the United States and the Kalam Centre in India as they develop technology and science for the exploration of the Moon and Mars.

 

A team from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories has created a “Mars pond” in the laboratory’s Mars Yard to test new technology for the search for life on Mars. A model of the Mars Rover will be guided to the site, take samples from the water and return for NASA scientists to carry out tests and studies as they continue the search for life on Mars.  Such experiments are vital to test instruments and methods for the robotic and human exploration of deep environments on the Moon and Mars.

 

Also during the MINAR 8 fortnight:

  • A team from Sweden will test a full-size planetary exploration rover prototype designed to sniff gases and map underground spaces for exploration of Mars and mine safety on earth
  • A team from York University will test underground drone technologies
  • The Kalam Centre in India will use the mine for outreach and science education to thousands of schools across India

 

The Boulby Underground Lab is Funded by the UK government’s Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC). This year the MINAR event will also see the launch of a new outreach programme aimed at remote areas of Scotland. The aim is to encourage children to build and programme their own mini Mars Rover which will be tested to complete a set of tasks in the Boulby Mars yard this summer.

 

MINAR is a rare and highly successful example of a science and industry partnership as teams get to work hand in glove with the commercially active mine at ICL Boulby. It is the only mine in the world processing the mineral polyhalite, an organic ‘super fertilizer’. ICL UK Vice President and General Manager of ICL Boulby. Andrew Fulton welcomed the event and said: “We are proud to host this great example of science and engineering excellence in the North East region. We see it enhancing technology transfer between Earth and space uses. Many of the things MINAR researchers want to do on other planets, such as detecting gases and mapping geological structures, are the same things we want to do in mines like this.”

 

 

Director of Boulby Underground Laboratory Prof. Sean Paling said: “It is really exciting to have the MINAR event teams here again. The work they do with us is important and really interesting and although there are a number of underground science laboratories around the world the work the MINAR teams do with us here is quite unique in the underground science world.”