2013

Survivability of bacteria in the high atmosphere

Category: Use of Extreme Environments on the Earth to advance the exploration and settlement of space

Institution: Natural History Museum, London

Microorganisms are among the most successful types of terrestrial life and thorough understanding of the adaptability of this form of life is key to our survival and exploration of other planets. This project investigates the upper atmosphere, an extreme and largely unexplored yet environmentally vital ecosystem of the Earth. Developing our understanding of microbial survival and adaptations to these conditions would greatly inform development of further bioregenerative life support systems such as those that may support future human expeditions to Mars. The stratosphere forms an intermediate analog (low pressure, temperature and humidity with high UV dosage) to conditions experienced in long distance space travel and those of extraterrestrial planets relative to terrestrial environments. The project measured survivability of Bacillus sp. spores in the upper atmosphere (launched on a highaltitude weather balloon). The project measured transcriptomic response of Bacillus sp. to the environment of the stratosphere (altitude = 17 to 50 km, pressure = 1 to 100 mb, relative humidity level = 10 to 25% and temperature = 0 to -100° C).

 

Amazonian peatland ecosystems: A remote sensing approach

Category: Use of Space Technology to Maintain the Earth as an Oasis

Institution: University of Leeds

Tropical forests are arguably the most important terrestrial biome in terms of harbouring biodiversity and regulating biogeochemical cycles. Amazonian forests represent half of the world’s tropical forests. Within Peruvian Amazonia the presence of substantial areas of peatland forests has recently been confirmed. Field data and remote sensing suggest that these ecosystems constitute a globally significant carbon pool. However, the discovery of these ecosystems has raised a number of important questions. The limited field data available suggest that a large number of seemingly discrete peatland forest community types exist. Little is known of: the key relationships between vegetation types, the processes which govern the development of these ecosystems, the extent of peatland area, and the interactions between above- and below-ground carbon stocks. . This project combined a number of space technologies in the form of satellite Imagery and space borne radar (Landsat, ASTER, SRTM and ALOS PALSAR) with an intensive ground truthing campaign in order to understand these ecosystems further.

 

Remote and in-situ reflectance spectroscopy of Mars-analogue hydrothermal alteration Category: Use of Extreme Environments on the Earth to advance the exploration and settlement of space

Institution: Birkbeck/UCL Centre for Planetary Sciences

Remote Sensing and visible and near infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy are crucial tools in the exploration of isolated environments here on Earth and in the investigation of our neighbouring planets, in particular Mars. One of the current objectives within the Mars science and Astrobiology communities is to identify regions of Mars that may have previously harboured life. This search is primarily focused on mineral assemblages and lithologies that formed in the presence of liquid water. Key instruments that have already been utilised for this purpose include the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM, a hyperspectral orbital imager), the Panoramic multispectral camera system (PanCam) on the Mars Exploration Rovers ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’, and most recently the Mastcam on board MSL Curiosity. The upcoming ESA 2018 ExoMars mission will continue to use orbital and in-situ reflectance spectroscopy for target selection at the Martian surface, also via a rover. This project took the Aberystwyth University PanCam Emulator (AUPE), a prototype of the Europan Mars rover ExoMars PanCam, and a top –of-the-range hyperspectral field spectrometer to the Krafla volcanic region of Iceland to collect in-situ spectral data. In particular, it focused on the hydrothermally-altered basaltic terrain, which provides an ideal analogue to acidic hydrothermal regions on Mars, such as Gusev Crater. The resulting datasets are to be used test the ability of VNIR spectroscopy to correctly characterise such an environment, and assess its past habitability.

 

WINNER OF THE BETTY ADAMSON AWARD

Oceans Project

Category: Use of Extreme Environments on the Earth to advance the exploration and settlement of space

Institution: Oceans Project

 

Oceans Project is an online, environmental education programme for young people worldwide aged 8-25 years old. The project was started as a face to face course by a group of 12 year olds in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and aims to bring the outside world to young people who will likely never have chance to travel themselves including refugees, IDPs, street children, orphans, and affluent young people. It teaches them about the world, encouraging local exploration and love for the environment.

In 2014, Oceans Project leaders will row 7200 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from California to Australia, aim to be the first people to reach the Arctic’s Northern Pole of Inaccessibility in 2015, and build ‘Oceans Lodge’ in Scotland as a neutral space to bring young people together for the ‘adventurous journey’ and ‘residential’ components of their Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. This will be funded through ‘educational partnerships’ that link 300 businesses and individuals with their nominated school or youth organisation and raise awareness and funds for 4 charities: Oceans Project, Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, Thai Children’s Trust, and First Step Georgia. Educational partnership and project duration is 1st September 2013-31st December 2015 with Betty Adamson funding being used to create educational materials ready for dispatch in September 2013.

During the expeditions, the 300 educational partners and their schools will receive curriculum related educational materials, 2D and 3D expedition videos, funded places on the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, ipads and science apps, daily lessons live from the field, a Foldedsheet map to chart expedition progress, postcards, and exclusive photos. With funding from the Betty Adamson Award, the organisation will work with their Patron Dr Alexander Kumar from the European Space Agency’s Antarctica research centre, to create a series of educational materials that link space with each expedition. From navigation using the stars, the effect of the moon on the oceans, living in remote environments, why we have seasons, the solar system, and life on Mars. Funding will cover the design, printing, app development, and contribute towards a ‘residential’ course at our proposed ‘Oceans Lodge’ linked to Alex’s work for ESA about Mars exploration.