GeoLog

Early Career Scientists

IGLUNA: students work towards building an icy human habitat on the Moon!

IGLUNA: students work towards building an icy human habitat on the Moon!

What does it take to build a habitat in ice on the Moon? An international group of university students and professionals is working together to provide this answer and develop a sustainable and operational habitat in lunar ice. The project is called IGLUNA and is organised by the Swiss Space Center and the European Space Agency (ESA) as the first initiative from ESA_Lab, an ESA interuniversity research platform where young professionals across Europe can work together on space projects.

Many of the participating students from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands presented their work on IGLUNA at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna last month. Arlene Dingemans, a VU Amsterdam student and project participant, says,

At the moment, we are a pilot team, the first one working on this project, and we really hope that future teams will develop further this research and maybe, one day, we can go to the Moon!

The North Pole of the Moon where potential lunar cups would be located. Credit: NASA

Human life as we know it today, can only survive under specific environmental conditions; we need the right kind temperature, atmosphere, gravity, radiation, and access to oxygen and water to properly function. On Earth, we have all the necessary resources but as far as we know, our planet is the only place where human life can thrive. Thus, it is vital to carry out research and experiments in order to better understand how human life can be sustainable in places with harsh conditions. The Moon is our closest planetary object and the best place to investigate how life can be supported there.

As part of their project, the group will be testing an analog lunar habitat on Earth, on a glacier in Zermatt, Switzerland, under cold and harsh conditions similar to the Moon’s ice craters in the south pole.

Building a habitat in ice on the Moon also has several benefits. Firstly, water (ice) is essential for life as we know it on Earth, but it can also be used to produce oxygen and fuels. Furthermore, ice is a great insulator for cosmic and solar radiation, and it can function as a shield against micrometeorites.

The field campaign will also involve operating several different experiments that could hypothetically  be done on the moon. Operations will start operations on 17 June, lasting until 3 July; during this time the habitat will also be open to the public, allowing visitors to watch and even take part in experiments.

The entrance tunnel into the Glacier Palace in Klein Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland, where the IGLUNA habitat will be constructed. Credit: Swiss Space Center (SSC) / IGLUNA

The research conducted by the VU Amsterdam team in IGLUNA will focus on geological, glaciological, and astrobiological experiments. Bernard Foing, a professor at VU Amsterdam supervising the student team, highlights: “It’s important not only to live on the Moon, but also to do something really useful. We are going to learn about the Moon, about the Earth, [and] do astronomy. Also this project is a way to exchange expertise and to learn a lot through hands-on activities.”

Marc Heemskerk, participant and student coordinator explains:

The simulation aims to prepare ourselves and humanity in the best possible way for going to the Moon and living there in a semi-permanent or permanent basis. And I really think that it’s not a question of whether we will go to the Moon, but of when we will go. So, eventually, we will have to learn how to live there and how to use local resources.

Transferring resources from the Earth to the Moon in order to build a base it is extremely expensive in terms of energy and money, hence, it is vital to use local materials, Heemskerk explains.

The cave in which the IGLUNA habitat will be constructed – 15m below the surface of the Matterhorn Glacier, Switzerland. Credit: Swiss Space Center (SSC) / IGLUNA

The construction of an operational habitat requires knowledge and skill exchange between people from different backgrounds. 20 student teams coming from 13 universities in nine countries around Europe  from multiple disciplines work together to address the challenges of building an effective structure, which one day could be fully independent and operational on the Moon.

Dieke Beentjes, a participating student emphasizes:

What is also interesting is that our research team is already multidisciplinary. We started out as a team of geologists and now we also have biologists, as biological research is different and needs different instruments – to look at DNA and life traces for example.

The scientific equipment includes cameras, a spectrometer, a microscope, telescopes, a seismometer, drones and many others.

This initiative inspires students to think about the idea of a habitat, while increasing international relationships and collaborations. Marjolein Daeter, another project participant says, “It’s more like an opportunity to get to know this world and we get help from our university and ESA to do that. It’s fun to work with different people on this.”

If you are interested about the project, you can follow the link here: https://www.spacecenter.ch/igluna/ 

By Anastasia Kokori, EGU Press Assistant

References

Benavides, T. et al.: IGLUNA – Habitat in Ice: An ESA_Lab project hosted by the SSC. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 21, EGU2019-17807, 2019 (conference abstract)

Daeter, M. and Dingemans, A.: VU Science Experiments (VUSE) for Igluna, a science showcase for a Moon ice habitat. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 21, EGU2019-17500, 2019 (conference abstract)

De Winter, B. et al.: VUSE, VU Science Experiments at Igluna, a Science Showcase for a Moon Ice Habitat. 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2019 (LPI Contrib. No. 2132) (conference abstract)

Heemskerk, M. V. et al.: IGLUNA Habitat in Ice: An ESA_Lab project hosted by the Swiss Space Center. 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2019 (LPI Contrib. No. 2132) (conference abstract)

At the Assembly 2019: Thursday Highlights

At the Assembly 2019: Thursday Highlights

Welcome to the fourth day of General Assembly excitement! Once again the day is packed with great events for you to attend and here are just some of the sessions on offer. You can find out more about what’s on in EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – download it here.

Union-wide sessions

The Union-wide session of the day focuses on Promoting and supporting equality of opportunities in geosciences (US4). Under-representation of different groups (cultural, national and gender) remains a reality across the world in the geosciences. This Union Symposium will touch on the remaining obstacles that contribute to these imbalances, with the goal of identifying best practices and innovative ideas to overcome obstacles. Join the discussion from 14:00–18:00 in Room E1 or follow online through webstreaming.

Thursday will feature two Great Debates, the first discussing climate thresholds and turning points for fossil fuel emissions: The safe operating space for the planet and how to ensure it is not passed (GDB1) at 10:45–12:30 in Room E1. The following great debate is particularly geared towards early career scientists (ECS). Head to Room E1 from 19:00 to 20:30 to discuss, in a series of small group debates, how early career scientists can prioritise their mental wellbeing. Seating is limited for both debates so make sure to arrive early to guarantee a spot!

You can tune into both sessions on Twitter using the #EGU19GDB hashtag and follow the first debate via webstreaming.

Scientific sessions

Some of today’s inter- and transdisciplinary highlights include sessions on…

There are several scientifically stimulating sessions planned throughout the day. Check the programme schedule to see all that’s on offer! (Credit: EGU/Keri McNamara)

Check the conference programme or EGU Today for details on the rest of Thursdays’s inter- and transdisciplinary sessions.

And be sure check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Short courses

Take the opportunity to expand your skills in one of today’s short courses and splinter meetings. Be sure to share what you learn on social media using the hashtag #EGU19SC:

There are also many great pop-up events planned for today at the Networking and Early Career Scientist Zone (Red Level), here’s just a few planned for today:

  • Earth Science preprints: the What’s, the Why’s and the How’s: 13:00
  • Young Water Professionals Booth: 14:00
  • Academia is not the only route: exploring career options for Earth scientists Q&A: 15:00

Medal lectures

There’s also a number of Medal Lectures on throughout the day – here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

Science, art and society at EGU 2019

Tonight from 19:00 to 20:30 in Room L4/5 you can join an OpenStreetMap Mapathon to help put some of the world’s most vulnerable places on the map. A mapathon is a mapping marathon, where volunteers get together to contribute to OpenStreetMap – the world’s free map. No experience is necessary to take part in the event, just bring your laptop and the conveners will provide the training. In this session you will also learn more about crowdsourcing, open data and humanitarian response, as well as get tips for how to host a mapathon at your home institution.

EGU 2019 artists in residence and samples of their work (Credit: M Merlin/G Skretis/ G Anastasakis)

EGU’s illustrator (Morgane Merlin) and sculptor (Giorgo Skretis) in residence have been circulating the Assembly to share their conference experiences and communicate science. You can see their work posted daily on the EGU blog here or on social media through the hashtag #EGUart. Today Giorgo will also be hosting a short course on sculpting your research, (SC2.14) at 19:00-20:00 in Room -2.32.

EGU committees: public meetings

In addition to organising an annual General Assembly, the EGU publishes a number of open-access journals, organises topical meetings, honours scientists with awards and medals, and has a range of education and outreach activities. Want to find out more? Some of the EGU’s committees are having public meetings at this year’s General Assembly, to tell EGU members more about what we do and get feedback.

Additionally, the EGU President and Programme Committee Chair are convening a townhall on the carbon footprint of EGU’s General Assembly (TM4: 19:00–20:00 / Room -2.47). This townhall will provide information on measures taken so far by the EGU to reduce the environmental footprint of its General Assembly, as well as solicit suggestions for ways forward to further reduce the carbon footprint of the conference.

If you need a change of pace, stop by the Imaggeo Photo Exhibition beside the EGU Booth (Hall X2, basement, Brown Level). You can vote for your favourite finalists there, but be quick because the voting deadline is today at midnight! While you’re in the area, you can also take the opportunity to meet your division and Union-wide representatives in today’s Meet EGU appointments.

Have a lovely day!

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 7 to 12 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website and follow the Assembly’s online conversation on Twitter at #EGU19.

At the Assembly 2019: Wednesday Highlights

At the Assembly 2019: Wednesday Highlights

We’re halfway through the General Assembly already! Once again there is lots on offer at EGU 2019 and this is just a taster – be sure to complement this information with EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly, available for download here.

Union-wide sessions

Communication between scientists, institutions, policymakers and the general public is widely recognised as an essential step towards a fair and sustainable society. Today’s Science and Society session Science, Politics and European (dis)integration: A conversation of Geoscientists with Ilaria Capua and Mario Monti will focus on science and politics with a global perspective, and the impact of populism on European integrity and therefore scientific research. In this session, Former Italian Prime Minister and European Commissioner Mario Monti and Former Italian Parliamentarian Ilaria Capua will outline optimal strategies that researchers can use to deliver clear scientific messages to key institutions. If you can’t attend the event, you can watch the session through the live stream.

The EGU will welcome Ilaria Capua and Mario Monti at the 2019 General Assembly during the high-level Science, Politics and European (dis)integration session on Wednesday 10 April, 12:45–14:00 in room E1.

Today’s Great Debate addresses Rewards and recognition in science: what value should we place on contributions that cannot be easily measured? (GDB4: 10:45–12:30 / Room E1). Assessments of scientists and their institutions tend to focus on easy-to-measure metrics related to research outputs such as publications, citations, and grants. However, there is a growing need for scientists to communicate, engage, and work directly with the public and policy makers, and practice open scholarship, especially regarding data and software. At the session you can listen to a distinguished panel of stakeholders discuss how can we fairly value and credit harder-to-measure, these less tangible contributions, compared to the favoured metrics. You can also follow the session on Twitter (#EGU19GDB) and catch up with the EGU 2019 webstream.

The EGU Early Career Scientists’ Forum (12:45–13:45 / Room L2) is the best place to find out more about the Union and how to get involved. Because the EGU is a bottom up organisation, we are keen to hear your suggestions on how to make ECS related activities even better. There will be plenty of opportunities during the forum for you to provide feedback. It’s also over lunch, so you’ll find a buffet of sandwiches and soft drinks half way through the session!

In the evening, the EGU will be holding a reception to launch the newest addition to its collection of open access journals, Geochronology (GChron). The reception (PCN10) will be held from 18:00–19:00 at the EGU Booth in Hall X2 on the Brown Level.

Medal lectures and awards

Mioara Mandea giving the 2018 Petrus Peregrinus Medal at last year’s EGU General Assembly. (Credit: EGU / Foto Pfluegl)

Another promising event set for today is the EGU Award Ceremony (PCN3), where the achievements of many outstanding scientists will be recognised in an excellent evening event from 17:30–20:00 in Room E1. Here are some of the lectures being given by these award-winning scientists:

Additionally, a stand-alone lecture will be given by Giulia Sofia from the University of Connecticut on the linkage between humans, precipitation patterns, and floods.

Scientific sessions

There are a host of inter- and transdisciplinary events taking place today. Here are just a sample of what’s on offer:

Check the conference programme or EGU Today for details on the rest of Wednesday’s inter- and transdisciplinary sessions.

And be sure check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Short courses

Now on to short courses! Here are just some of the sessions you might want to consider adding to your schedule, from science communication to career development:

There is also a great selection of short courses on problem solving, managing projects, and navigating new technology and programmes:

There are also many great pop-up events planned for today at the Networking and Early Career Scientist Zone, here’s just a few planned for today:

  • Let’s talk peer-review: A chance to discuss and get ideas about how to carry out a thorough peer-review: 10:00
  • Early Career Scientist (ECS) Representatives meet-up: open to all ECS reps: past, present, future: 11:00
  • Meet & Greet with the geomorphology experts: 13:00
  • The IPCC and how you can get involved: 16:00

Perhaps you are looking for something fun and informal? Geoscience Game Night is a bring, show and share session to play some games that have a geoscience theme. Feel free to bring a game or just come along to have some fun. This short course follows the Games for Geoscience oral and poster sessions happening earlier today.

Finally, remember to take the opportunity to meet the people behind EGU in the day’s Meet EGU sessions.

Have an excellent day!

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 7 to 12 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website and follow the Assembly’s online conversation on Twitter at #EGU19.