Scientists from around the world will be gathering at the Cleveland Potash Boulby mine over the next fortnight to develop technology and science for the exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Researchers from across Europe, NASA and the SETI Institute in the United States, together with the Kalam Centre in India, will be taking part in the fifth session of the MINAR (Mine Analogue Research) project deep in the Boulby Mine, testing a wide range of equipment, including means of studying microbial life.
The event—which will also be attended by an astronaut with the European Space Agency—is being hosted at the mine’s Boulby Underground Laboratory, one of just a handful of facilities world-wide suitable for deep underground science projects.
Included in the programme will be the chance for schools and others to access live feeds from a kilometre underground, showing the planetary scientists at work, learning about preparations for planetary exploration and hearing from astronaut Matthias Maurer.
Sean Paling, the Director and Senior Scientist at Boulby Underground Laboratory, which is funded by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, says the support from Cleveland Potash as the mine operators is crucial.
He explains “Boulby has hosted the UK’s Dark Matter studies for a number of years, operating some of the most sensitive equipment in the world to try to detect what is believed the ‘missing’ material which makes up much of the mass of the universe but which does not emit light or energy.
“In more recent times we have developed a range of other research programmes which can only be carried out in a facility such as Boulby, including MINAR, an initiative run by UK Centre for Astrobiology to do science and test technologies for planetary exploration.
Adds Professor Charles Cockell, from Edinburgh University, head of the UK Centre for Astrobiology “The next two weeks provide a wonderful opportunity for scientists from many different parts of the world to come together to work in the mine and laboratories underground. As well as this though we want to use it as an opportunity to give as many people as possible an understanding of the challenges of planetary exploration and the technologies being developed.
“That is why we will be organising live feeds from deep in the mine—the first on Monday, October 16th, in collaboration with the Kalam Centre in India and the second, on Wednesday, October 18th, which will involve two sessions with Matthias Maurer, who is a member of the European astronaut team.”
Says Marc Kirsten, Managing Director at Cleveland Potash “We are delighted to welcome the team of scientists who will be with us over the next fortnight. Since the Boulby Underground Laboratory was first set up in the early 1990s we have worked very closely together and now, of course, it is recognised as an internationally-important facility hosting an impressive range of world-leading studies.”