Europlanet Field Trips
Europlanet’s Transnational Access programme allows any European planetary science researcher access to a set of state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and field sites. A call for proposals is put out each spring and all applications are peer reviewed. Applicants must apply to use facilities outside the country in which they are based.
Europlanet's Field Sites TNA provides access to five sites that have been selected as realistic analogues of surfaces of Mars, Europa and Titan, to which planetary missions have either recently been directed or are planned. The five sites are:
Several field trips have already taken place through the Europlanet TNA programme. Some of the scientists that participated have blogged about their experiences:
Dr Felipe Gómez led an expedition to study the similarities between the Chott El Jerid Desert and mineral deposits in the surface of Mars, and look at ecosystems that survive in extreme conditions below the surface. Read more
Professor Liane Benning (University of Leeds) travelled to Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, to study how life could exist on other icy places in our Solar System. Read more
Dr Agnes Samper (University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada) travelled to one of the remotest places on Earth, the Kamchatka peninsula, to piece together the complex life story of two volcanoes. Read more>
In recent years, Europe's planetary space science programme has received wide-spread recognition for a string of successful missions. Mars Express, the first purely European mission to another planet, was an outstanding success. The dramatic landing of the European Huygens probe on Titan in January 2005 and the on-going success of the joint ESA/NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn show Europe's capability and innovation in planetary science technology.
The development of EU planetary science must be viewed in the context of a rapidly changing international environment. Alongside the traditional planetary science and space 'powers', China and India have announced ambitious planetary science and space programmes. It is vital that Europe, with its large knowledge and skills base, remains at the forefront of the planetary science field. Central to this aim is the need to overcome the current fragmentation of the EU planetary science community. Europlanet is consolidating the integration of Europe’s planetary science community (in activities started in 2005-2008 under FP6 with a Coordination Action and continued through an FP7 Research Infrastructure in 2009-2012) and building a major distributed European infrastructure to be shared, fed and expanded by all planetary scientists.
Europe has great breadth in its scientific expertise, in both ground-based observing and space missions. Flagship activities include the launch of the Rosetta mission to study and land upon a comet and Europe's major investment in the European Southern Observatory (ESO) through use of the Very Large Telescope (VLT). ESA's programme for planetary and space exploration includes the ExoMars mission to send a rover to Mars in 2016-18 to search for evidence of past or present biological activity. In the build up to Horizon 2020, Europlanet is bridging a crucial gap between a series of enormously productive missions, and new and exciting challenges for Europe's planetary scientists.
Europe boasts one of the largest international communities of planetary scientists, composed of over 800 tenured academics and five times that number of early-career researchers and postgraduate students, in more than 200 research groups/institutions spread across nearly all Europe’s national states. Europe’s existing and emerging competitors rely on just one national agency (e.g. NASA) that has the responsibility both of putting on space missions and supporting the scientific communities that contribute to those missions. ESA, however, only has responsibility for building and flying space missions; support for the underpinning scientific community is distributed among its national members, each with their own funding and support regimes, as well as individual institutions that have their own institutional requirements. Europe’s planetary science community is, therefore, much more fragmented and hence coordinated activities within that community are correspondingly more difficult to carry out.
The Europlanet initiative was launched with the aim of overcoming this fragmentation and providing coordination across the European planetary sciences community. Through the auspices of an initial Framework 6 Coordination Activity and subsequently a Framework 7 Research Infrastructure, Europlanet has now forged a considerable degree of cohesion and unity of purpose amongst Europe’s planetary scientists.