Deep mine research to aid future Mars missions

Scientists from around the world are gathering in a deep mine to research new technologies for future exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Edinburgh researchers are taking part in the Mine Analogue Research (MINAR) event at the Cleveland Potash Boulby Mine in the north east of England.

The Boulby Underground Laboratory at the site, a kilometre underground, is one of just a handful of facilities worldwide suitable for deep underground science projects.

The environment has a low level of natural radiation compared with the Earth’s surface, which is beneficial for sensitive experiments.

Deep underground is an ideal place in which to better understand the exploration challenges of other planets.

Technology tests

At the event, run by the UK Centre for Astrobiology, the international group will work together to test a range of equipment, including new means of studying microbial life.

Edinburgh researchers will be joined by colleagues from across Europe, NASA and the SETI Institute in the United States, together with the Kalam Centre in India.

An astronaut from the European Space Agency will also take part.

By working in an active mine, researchers hope that technology developments can be shared between planetary scientists and the global mining community.

Two live online feeds featuring scientists at work will be broadcast from the mine—the first on Monday, 16 October and another on Wednesday, 18 October.

The Boulby laboratory is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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. We also 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.

Professor Charles CockellSchool of Physics and Astronomy, and Head of the UK Centre for Astrobiology