Establishing a human presence on Mars is increasingly seen by space agencies and private organizations as the horizon frontier in human space exploration. These long-duration missions however, impose a high degree of technological, operational, physical and psychological challenges. Mars analog habitats, such as the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah (U.S.) are established to conduct field experiments, test new hardware, new operational concepts and study the social and crew teamwork dynamics in support to these future manned missions to the Red Planet.
The International Emerging Space Leaders (IESLs) Crew (or MDRS Crew 205) is composed by eight outstanding international space young professionals and students, who together, will undertake a Mars analog mission from February 9th to 24th at MDRS. The IESL’s Crew is an interdisciplinary and multicultural team including members from Kuwait, Spain, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. During the two-week rotation, the crew will simulate a mission to the Red Planet.
The team will conduct multiple research projects relevant to space exploration in areas such as in-situ resources utilization, human behavior, leadership and teamwork, astronomy, geology, EVA optimization, and science outreach. In addition to these research projects, the crew will also be in charge of the maintenance of MDRS facilities and daily operations of the station. This mission will also ultimately contribute to a better understanding of the requirements, benefits and challenges of international teams in future manned missions.
Description by Maria Grulich, as it first appeared on imaggeo.egu.eu.
Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.
LEGO reenactment of Carolyn Porco's TED Talk on the Cassini mission to Saturn. Credit:
Maia Weinstock (distributed via Flikr)
Science and innovation are a central priority for the European Union with the current research framework, Horizon 2020, allocating almost €80 billion to research and innovation over seven years, until 2021. It appears that policymakers are currently happy with this investment as they are looking to increase research and innovation spending to at least €100 billion in the next research funding framework, Horizon Europe. However, misinformation and the increasing scientific scepticism is a very real threat. Not only could mistrust in science lead to changes in the EU Parliamentary configuration after the Parliament Election in May but it could also alter how the public views funding towards science more generally.
While improving science communication isn’t the only method of combating science illiteracy and subsequent mistrust, it can help significantly. Minna Wilkki, Head of Unit Communication*, DG Research and Innovation, explains the value of science in Europe and why science communication is so important,
“EU funding brings together scientists and industry from Europe and beyond, increasing European competitiveness in the global market and helping solve some of our world’s major societal challenges. This is something Europe should be proud of, because without science and innovation there is no growth, no answer to our global issues. Science communication, telling this story, is critical to ensure both citizens and politicians across Europe remain committed with this investment, it’s about creating a vision for a better future.”
I think it’s fair to say that research funding and finding solutions to global challenges are things that are close to most geoscientists’ hearts, but there are a lot of other reasons why you should communicate your research too!
Additional reasons to share your science with the public
For the greater good: Geoscientific research is extremely broad and can have far-reaching societal implications and contributed to finding solutions to global issues such as climate change. However, for it to be used effectively, it must be included in public debates which, without well-communicated research, can become warped by a specific agenda or misinformation.
Self-promotion: Aside from the moral imperative, communicating your research with the public can help boost your own profile. It may result in offers to present your research at public events or even with the media.
To maximise the impact of research: Sharing your research with a wide variety of people, on multiple platforms and in different formats, is likely to spread your results further.
Improve your communication skills: Non-scientists often perceive issues differently from those who research them. Understanding how the public perceives a certain problem or situation can help you tune your science communication techniques and allow your research to be better understood and remembered. It could also provide inspiration for future research.
To find new research partners: Using multiple platforms to communicate your research can not only increase your network but it could also result in you finding new research partners. This may include other scientists (within or outside of your area of expertise), industry leaders, non-governmental organisations or policymakers.
To meet research funding criteria: Most funding agencies require some form of public outreach and an outreach or science communication strategy is often requested during the initial funding application process. So, if you’re being funded by one of these agencies, public outreach is also part of your job!
Methods of communicating with the public
The majority of research is published in scientific journals which are then read and used by scientists to further their own knowledge and research. The non-scientific public are unlikely to read these sources or be able to connect with them. Research must therefore be communicated to the public using alternative science communication methods.
This may include: participating in public lectures and workshops, writing a poem, taking a photo or creating video content that explain your project and research results, posting about your research on social media, or contributing to a blog run by an organisation that’s relevant to your research. Even just talking about your research with friends and family who work outside of academia can be seen as a form of outreach. Of course, how you communicate within each of these methods is also important. The EGU already has a number of useful documents that give you tips for communicating your science with the media, policymakers, at a press conference and through a blog.
Finding additional time to work on outreach on top of everything else that scientists are expected to do (such as research, teaching, applying for grants, writing scientific articles and peer reviewing others’ work, student supervision and administration), may seem daunting. But it can also be enormously beneficial for researchers on a personal level and is essential for the success of research and finding solutions to societal challenges.
A success story?
In January 2019, Harris Interactive published a study titled Europeans and space activities for the European Space Agency (ESA) to determine how do Europeans perceive issues related to space. This study was based on a survey with 5,227 Europeans respondents from five different EU member states,
The survey showed that 93% of respondents have at least a “positive view” of space activities in general while 33% claim to have a “very positive view” (Figure 1). 83% of respondents said they knew about ESA with 37% knowing exactly what it was. Furthermore, 40% of respondents felt that they were well informed about EU space activities.
Figure 1, Perception of space activities. Source: Harris Interactive
While we cannot discount pop-culture and innate human curiousness about space, the fact that the respondents had both a positive view and felt informed about EU space activities is likely to be at least partially due to the public outreach that ESA, along with other space agencies, are committed to. The public’s enthusiasm and sadness surrounding the recent completion of NASA’s Opportunity Mission further highlights the potential that effective science communication has.
A photo of Mars' surface, taken by NASA's InSight lander Nov. 26 after successfully touching down on the Red Planet. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Drawing inspiration from popular stories on our social media channels, major geoscience headlines, as well as unique and quirky research, this monthly column aims to bring you the latest Earth and planetary science news from around the web.
Earth’s red and rocky neighbor has been grabbing a significant amount of attention from the geoscience media this month. We’ll give you the rundown on the latest news of Mars.
The NASA-led InSight lander, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, touched down on the Red Planet’s surface last week, causing the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) control room to erupt in applause, fist pumps, and cool victory handshakes.
The lander, equipped with a heat probe, a radio science instrument and a seismometer, will monitors the planet’s deep interior. Currently, no other planet besides our own has been analysed in this way.
While scientists know quite a bit about the atmosphere and soil level of Mars, their understanding of the planet’s innerworkings, figuratively and literally, only scratches the surface. “We don’t know very much about what goes on a mile below the surface, much less 2,000 miles below the surface down to the center,” explains Bruce Banerdt, a scientist at JPL, to the Atlantic.
By probing into Mars’ depths, researchers hope the mission gives insight into the evolution of our solar system’s rocky planets in their early stages and helps explain why Earth and Mars formed such different environments, despite originating from the same cloud of dust.
“Our measurements will help us turn back the clock and understand what produced a verdant Earth but a desolate Mars,” Banerdt said recently in a press release.
The InSight lander launched from Earth in May this year, making its way to Mars over the course of seven months. Once reaching the planet’s upper atmosphere, the spacecraft decelerated from about 5,500 to 2.4 metres per second, in just about six minutes. To safely slow down its descent, the lander had to use a heatshield, a parachute and retro rockets.
“Although we’ve done it before, landing on Mars is hard, and this mission is no different,” said Rob Manning, chief engineer at JPL, during a livestream. “It takes thousands of steps to go from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them has to work perfectly to be a successful mission.”
This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s InSight lander after it has deployed its instruments on the Martian surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The InSight lander is currently situated on Elysium Planitia, a plane near the planet’s equator also known by the mission team as the “biggest parking lot on Mars.” Since landing, the robot has taken its first photos, opened its solar panels, and taken preliminary data. It will spend the next few weeks prepping and unpacking the instruments onboard.
The devices will be used to carry out three experiments. The seismometers will listen for ‘marsquakes,’ which can offer clues into the location and composition of Mars’ rocky layers. The thermal probe will reveal how much heat flows out of the planet’s interior and hopefully show how alike (or unalike) Mars is to Earth. And finally, radio transmissions will demonstrate how the planet wobbles on its axis.
In other news, NASA has also chosen a landing site for the next Mars rover, which is expected to launch in 2020. The space agency has announced that the rover will explore and take rock samples from Jezero crater, one of the three locations shortlisted by scientists. The crater is 45 kilometres wide and at one point had been filled with water to a depth of 250 metres. The sediment and carbonate rocks left behind could offers clues on whether Mars had sustained life.
What you might have missed
By analysing radar scans and sediment samples, a team of scientists have discovered a massive crater, hidden underneath more than 900 metres of ice in northwest Greenland. After surveying the site, scientists say it’s likely that a meteorite created the sometime between 3 million and 12,000 years ago.
The depression under Hiawatha Glacier is 31 kilometres wide, big enough to hold the city of Paris. At this size, the crater is one of the top 25 largest craters on Earth; it’s also the first to be found under ice. An impact of this size significant mark on the Earth’s environment. “Such an impact would have been felt hundreds of miles away, would have warmed up that area of Greenland and may have rained rocky debris down on North America and Europe,” said Jason Daley from Smithsonian Magazine.
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The Juno probe flew 2.8 billion kilometres between its launch from earth and insertion into orbit around Jupiter. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA scientists have revealed surprising new information about Jupiter’s magnetic field from data gathered by their space probe, Juno.
Unlike earth’s magnetic field, which is symmetrical in the North and South Poles, Jupiter’s magnetic field has startlingly different magnetic signatures at the two poles.
The information has been collected as part of the Juno program, NASA’s latest mission to unravel the mysteries of the biggest planet in our solar system. The solar-powered spacecraft is made of three 8.5 metre-long solar panels angled around a central body. The probe (pictured above) cartwheels through space, travelling at speeds up to 250,000 kilometres per hour.
Measurements taken by a magnetometer mounted on the spacecraft have allowed a stunning new insight into the planet’s gigantic magnetic field. They reveal the field lines’ pathways vary greatly from the traditional ‘bar magnet’ magnetic field produced by earth.
Jupiter’s magnetic field is enormous. if magnetic radiation were visible to the naked eye, from earth, Jupiter’s magnetic field would appear bigger than the moon. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI
The Earth’s magnetic field is generated by the movement of fluid in its inner core called a dynamo. The dynamo produces a positive radiomagnetic field that comes out of one hemisphere and a symmetrical negative field that goes into the other.
The interior of Jupiter on the other hand, is quite different from Earth’s. The planet is made up almost entirely of hydrogen gas, meaning the whole planet is essentially a ball of moving fluid. The result is a totally unique magnetic picture. While the south pole has a negative magnetic field similar to Earth’s, the northern hemisphere is bizarrely irregular, comprised of a series of positive magnetic anomalies that look nothing like any magnetic field seen before.
“The northern hemisphere has a lot of positive flux in the northern mid latitude. It’s also the site of a lot of anomalies,” explains Juno Deputy Principal Investigator, Jack Connerney, who spoke at a press conference at the EGU General Assembly in April. “There is an extraordinary hemisphere asymmetry to the magnetic field [which] was totally unexpected.”
NASA have produced a video that illustrates the unusual magnetism, with the red spots indicating a positive magnetic field and the blue a negative field:
Before its launch in 2016, Juno was programmed to conduct 34 elliptical ‘science’ orbits, passing 4,200 kilometres above Jupiter’s atmosphere at its closest point. When all the orbits are complete, the spacecraft will undertake a final deorbit phase before impacting into Jupiter in February 2020.
So far Juno has achieved eleven science orbits, and the team analysing the data hope to learn more as it completes more passes. “In the remaining orbits we will get a finer resolution of the magnetic field, which will help us understand the dynamo and how deep the magnetic field forms” explains Scott Bolton, Principal Investigator of the mission.
The researchers’ next steps are to examine the probe’s data after its 16th and 34th passes meaning it will be a few more months before they are able to learn more of Jupiter’s mysterious magnetosphere.
By Keri McNamara, EGU 2018 General Assembly Press Assistant