23 January 2020 – Thales Alenia Space has launched its exciting 2020 MARSBalloon project for school students and science clubs to carry out Mars-analogue science experiments without having to put on a spacesuit!
In June 2020, the balloon will carry over 100 student experiments to an altitude of 30km, more than twice the height of commercial airliners, where they will be above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere. Along the way, the experiments will experience conditions very similar to the surface of Mars including temperatures of -50°C, pressures 1/100th that of sea level and an increased radiation dose.
This allows students to test the response of electronics, materials, plants and even food to the conditions outside of a future Mars base, helping future explorers to prepare for this strange and hostile environment. The whole flight lasts approximately four hours and the MARSBalloon team will chase after the balloon to recover the experiments after landing, allowing them to be returned to the students for analysis.
The MARSBalloon project is supported by Thales UK and run by enthusiastic STEM supporters from Thales Alenia Space, that will test student ideas for technologies that could one day be destined for Mars.
The aim is to test anything that humans or robots will be doing on Mars in the future.
This project is open to any school in the UK. There is no cost to take part in the project other than that of experiment materials and postage.