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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)

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

This photo was taken from the International Space Station (ISS), approx. 400 km above the Earth, in the NASA-led educational project Sally Ride EarthKAM (www.earthkam.org), Mission 58, April 2017. The image was requested by a team of 10th and 11th grade students from the National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania, coordinated by me. The lenses used on the digital camera mounted on the ISS are 50 mm focal length. The area photographed is a region of 185.87 km wide and approx. 123.5 km long, from Utah, USA. The view is spectacular, a perfect equilibrium between mountains, canyons, lakes and bays.

It’s just one of the pictures that my students had the opportunity to get from the ISS. Even though we weren’t there on the ISS to trigger the camera, all the locations in which the photographs were taken were chosen by us, on the track of the ISS.

The project activities were very complex. The students learned about the Earth, its rotation and gravity, and about the space station and its orbit. They completed their knowledge of physics, understanding how from the ISS orbit we can have another perspective of the Earth. They chose the places on the Earth to be photographed, studied these regions and monitored the weather conditions for better photo opportunities. They identified the places on Google Earth, analysed the photos and then created QR codes for some of them.

Below are the QR codes for the photo “Awesome trip above the Earth”:

 

The ISS became an innovative learning environment for the students. The astronauts’ availability for engaging in educational programmes, sharing their extraordinary experiences of becoming aware of the beauty and fragility of the Earth from the ISS orbit, has increased the attractiveness of learning about space. As Sally Ride, the first American astronaut woman on the ISS, said:

“When I was orbiting Earth in the space shuttle, I could float over to a window and gaze down at the delicate white clouds, brilliant orange deserts, and sparkling blue water of the planet below. I could see the coral reefs in the oceans, fertile farmlands in the valleys, and twinkling city lights beneath the clouds. Even from space, it is obvious that Earth is a living planet.”

The photo was integrated into a photo exhibition called “The Earth’s Colors” that I realised with my students at my college, which led the viewer on a global trip, discovering how beautiful and fascinating the Earth viewed from Space is. Satellite photography offered my students a new world perspective, encouraging them to ask questions and to search for the answers. It was a new and exciting way to travel and discover our planet.

The project was a great opportunity, not only for my students but also for thousands of other students around the globe, to study the Earth in a way that complements different subjects in order to better understand our world. It also has strengthened my conviction that, as the teacher and Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe said:

“…space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.”

By Diana Cristina Bejan, physics teacher, The National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania

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/.

Job opportunity at the EGU General Assembly: press assistant

Job opportunity at the EGU General Assembly: press assistant

We have two vacancies for science-communication or science-journalism students in Europe to work at the press centre of the 2019 General Assembly, which is taking place in Vienna, Austria, from 7–12 April. Applications from geoscience students with experience in science communication are also very welcome.

This is a paid opportunity for budding science communicators to gain experience in the workings of a press office at a major scientific conference, and to interact with journalists. The students will join the team assisting the EGU Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira and the journalists at the press centre, and are expected to help run press conferences. Other tasks include reporting on the events at the Assembly through photographs and video (including producing a highlights video of the conference), and/or writing blog posts.

The position is open to university students (final-year undergraduates or postgraduates) in science communication/journalism or to students in the Earth, planetary or space sciences with experience in science outreach. Applicants must have experience in photo and video reporting, or science writing, have an expert command of English, and be competent working with computers and the internet.

Further information

  • Only students with a student ID card and an EU (including UK but except Croatia) or Swiss passport are allowed to work at the EGU General Assembly.
  • People who are presenting an abstract at the EGU General Assembly are not eligible to apply.
  • Tax regulations in your home country could obligate you to pay income taxes on the amount earned at the EGU General Assembly (including travel money). The respective taxation is your responsibility.
  • If you have other income in Austria in 2019, you will be forced to pay income taxes in Austria should the sum of all income, including the amount earned at the EGU General Assembly (including travel money), exceed €11,000 gross.

Work hours and payment

Press assistants will need to be in Vienna from Sunday 7 April in the early afternoon until late on Friday 12 April. They should expect to work between 50 and 55 hours and will receive a wage of €9/hour, in addition to a €150 allowance for those who don’t reside in Vienna (the city of your university is considered your current place of residence). Student press assistants also receive additional support towards travel expenses and complimentary breakfast and lunch at the press centre from Monday to Friday.

Applications must include

  • Cover letter and CV (one page each) summarising relevant experience
  • Two samples of recent science communication work such as photo features, videos or written articles (published or unpublished, aimed at a general audience; links to an online portfolio are welcomed).

Application documents (in English) should be submitted by email in a single file to Bárbara Ferreira at media@egu.eu. Bárbara can also be contacted for informal enquiries by email or phone (+49-89-2180-6703). The deadline for applications is 10 December 2018.

If your application is successful, you will be asked to fill in a form to submit some information about yourself (including a copy of your passport and student ID card) to our conference organiser Copernicus.

The European Geosciences Union (EGU, www.egu.eu) is Europe’s premier geosciences organisation, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. The EGU organises a General Assembly that attracts over 14,000 scientists each year, as well as reporters. The meeting’s sessions cover a wide range of topics, including volcanology, planetary exploration, the Earth’s internal structure and atmosphere, climate, as well as energy and resources.

Try something different – choose a PICO session at EGU 2017!

Try something different – choose a PICO session at EGU 2017!

Some of the sessions scheduled for the upcoming EGU General Assembly are PICO only sessions. This means that, rather than being oral or poster format, they involve Presenting Interactive COntent (PICO). The aim of these presentations is to highlight the essence of a particular research area – just enough to get the audience excited about a topic without overloading them with information.

What’s great about this format is that it combines the best of oral and poster presentations.  It allows researchers to stand up and be recognised for great research while giving an oral contribution as well as discussing their work in detail and networking with other participants.

PICO sessions start with a series of 2 minute long presentations – one from each author. They can be a Power Point, a movie, an animation, or simply a PDF showing your research on a display. After the 2 minute talks, the audience can explore each presentation on touch screens, where authors are also available to answer questions and discuss their research in more detail.

Presenting a PICO for the first time can be daunting, so we’ve prepared a guide which talks you through the format step-by-step. It’s packed with practical tips on the best layout for your PICO, how to capture the audience’s attention in just two minutes and how to get the most out of the discussion at the interactive screen.

And don’t forget, as of the 2016 General Assembly, PICO presentations are part of the Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Awards. To be considered for the OSPP award, you must be the first author and personally present the PICO at the conference:

  • being a current undergraduate (e.g., BSc) or postgraduate (e.g., MSc, PhD) student;
  • being a recent undergraduate or postgraduate student (conferral of degree after 1 January of the year preceding the conference) who are presenting their thesis work.

Entering couldn’t be easier! Make sure you nominate yourself when you submit your abstract on-line. You’ll receive a letter, known as ‘Letter of Schedule’, confirming your presentation has been accepted, which will also include a link by which to register for the award. Before the conference, make sure you include the OSPP label (which you can find here) to your PICO presentation header so that the judges of the OSPP award now to evaluate your presentation.

To learn more about PICO presentations see the General Assembly website or download the How to make a PICO guide. For a first-hand account of what it’s like to take part in a PICO session, take a look at this post by early career scientists in the Seismology Division too.  Finally, you can also check out the short introductory video below: