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. Through its programme of Networking and Joint Research Activities and TransNational Access projects, Europlanet is consolidating the integration of the planetary science community (started in Europlanet's FP6 Coordination Action) 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 Aurora 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. The 2009 to 2012 time frame enables Europlanet to bridge a crucial gap between a series of enormously productive missions, and new and exciting horizons for Europe's planetary scientists.
Europe boasts the largest international community of planetary scientists, comprising over 800 academics in more than 200 research groups/institutions. Europe contains some of the world's leading planetary science centres and facilities, producing some of the highest impact and cited papers in the recent decade.
Unlike its counterparts in the USA and Japan, however, the European planetary science community suffers from having its infrastructure largely dispersed in fragmented national communities. Europlanet’s Networking Activities provide European planetary scientists with the opportunity to define key science goals, and to exchange ideas and personnel.
Europlanet provides TransNational Access to leading research facilities for Planetary Sciences, developing them further through highly focused Joint Research Activities. It is building a Virtual Planetary Observatory where all types of planetary data can be accessed. Europlanet is raising the profile, the efficiency and the productivity of European planetary science as never before.