Here you can find the latest news from the UK Centre for Astrobiology.
We have published a paper summarising the first five years of the centre with a specific focus on lessons we have learned in establishing a centre. The paper is primarily directed at those thinking of doing something similar (or setting up any centre). It also discusses how we have integrated science with teaching and public education. The paper is open access and you can get access to it by clicking here. Or you can download it below.
In November 2017, the UKCA completed its first iteration of the Life Beyond course in HMP Edinburgh and Glenochil. Life Beyond is a collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to work with prisoners to develop innovative plans and designs for human-tended stations on Mars. During the four week course, prisoners design stations, consider exploration objectives and engage in creative writing and artistic design. During the course, prisoners even wrote 'Martian Blues' music.
The work completed for the 2017 courses will be published by the British Interplanetary Society in 2018, making it available to space engineers, explorers and agencies around the world.
The course will next be implemented in HMP Shotts and Lowmoss. UKCA will also be implementing a life support research program in HMP Glenochil involving crop growth and real research on food production on the Moon and Mars.
The UKCA completed a two week campaign of testing space instruments and studying life in extreme environments using an underground astrobiology laboratory 1 km underground at the Boulby Mine, UK in October 2017.
MINAR 5 (Mine Analog Research) ran from October 8-20th 2017 for two weeks and involved scientists from NASA, Sweden, Switzerland and a number of groups from the UK. It focussed on the study of life and biosignature in the deep subsurface and the testing of a variety of instruments including drills, life detection equipment and other new planetary instruments. In the second week, MINAR involved ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. You can access conversations on Matthias here and You Tube also has other links to MINAR.
You can read about the previous MINAR 1-3 campaigns here.
On July 10th 2017, the UKCA hosted its fifth Astrobiology Academy, a teaching training initiative designed to develop astrobiology curriculum materials. This year, bringing 20 primary and secondary school teachers together from across Scotland and the US, it continued to develop curriculum materials for primary and secondary schools using astrobiolgy to tecah basis science.
The lesson plans developed by the academy can be accessed here: http://www.astrobiologyacademy.org/
In September 2017 the UKCA was joined by Javier Martin-Torres, who currently leads a planetary science and atmospheric research group at the Luleå University of Technology, Sweden, division of Space technology. Javier is PI of the HABIT instrument to be flown on the ExoMars European Mars lander and will join us as a Visiting Fellow.
The UKCA was joined by by Marie-Curie Fellow, Sean McMahon in September 2017. His work has focused on early life on Earth and its application to looking at the habitability of other planets such as Mars. Previusly at Yale and Aberdeen, at the University of Edinburgh he will work on subsurface biosignatures and how they can inform the search for life elsewhere.
The UKCA was joined by Rebecca P:reescott. Currently at the University of Hawaii, her NSF (National Science Foundation) Fellowship will be held jointly at the University of Edinburgh and the University of South Carolina. She will be focusing on quorum sensing molecules in microbial mats and the search for biosignatures on Mars.