June 2014: Tharsis 8


View from 30km altitude with the Bournemouth coastline visible on the right

View from 30km altitude with the Bournemouth coastline visible on the right

“30 SECONDARIES TO MARS”

On Thursday 19th June 2014 the MARSBalloon mission launched 80 experiments, made by secondary school students from all across the UK, designed to test how everyday objects will survive on Mars. This is the first flight of a unique project aimed to encourage young people to take up careers in the UK space industry. The project was devised and is run by young space engineers from Thales Alenia Space (TAS) UK with funding from the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The experiments were carried 30km up into Earth’s atmosphere on a high altitude balloon, named Tharsis after a volcanic region of Mars, where they experienced temperatures as low as -50°C, pressures of 1% of that at sea level and increased levels of radiation; conditions which are very similar to that of the surface of Mars. These conditions can rapidly degrade materials, damage electronics and sterilise organics.

After a two hour flight from Frome, Somerset, the balloon and experiments landed on farmland in Pulham, Dorchester and were safely recovered by the chase team an hour and a half later.

The students were set the challenge to come up with experiments for testing anything that humans might want to take or do on Mars in the future. All of the experiments had to fit inside a Kinder Surprisetm toy capsule and were mounted onto a special tray beneath the balloon to maximise their exposure to the hostile environment.

The idea for the mission was inspired by the need to show how fun and diverse careers in space engineering and science (and other STEM subjects) can be to meet the government’s goal of quadrupling the size of the UK Space industry by 2030. This means the industry is going to need 70,000 new space engineers, operators and scientists in the next 15 years to continue the vital work that Space science and satellites do for our world [Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2014-2030].

Andrew Bacon, TAS UK’s lead engineer for the project, said:

“MARSBalloon is a great opportunity for young people to become involved in the future exploration of Mars whilst showing them that we have a thriving Space industry in the UK and that we need them to help it grow.”

The next MARSBalloon launch, named Elysium after another Martian volcanic region, is planned for mid-October and there are still plenty of spaces available. UK secondary school teachers interested in entering their class or club into this flight should register on the teachers page.

COMPLETE LIST OF FLOWN EXPERIMENTS AND PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS

Redmoor Academy [RMA]: Chocolate and vitamin C
Soar Valley College [SVC]: Seeds and toothpaste
Clifton High School [CHS]: Ink
Burscough priory science college [BPS]: SD card and bubblewrap
Khalsa Primary School [KPS]: Ink and SIM card
leweston school [LWS2]: Elastic bands, seeds and yeast
Seaford college [SFC]: Elastic bands
Hinchley Wood School [HWS]: Seeds, rubber bands and marshmallow
Claires Court Senior Girls [CCS]: Seed growth, sodium hydrogen carbonate and glucose
Shavington High School [SVH]: seeds, metals, superglue and copper sulphate
Hayesfield Girls School [HGS]: Camera film (measuring radioactivity) and popcorn kernels
Cape cornwall [CCW]: Algae, marshmallow, match & strike
Nailsea School [NSS]: Seeds, camera film, tea, coffee, coke & water
Caludon Castle School [CLD]: Jelly babies, tangfastics and Water PH
Dixie Grammar School [DGS]: Basil seeds and elastic bands
Sir Roger Manwood’s School [SRM]: Yeast, Vitamin C and cress
The Cotswold School [CWS]: Lettuce, radish & cress seed growth
Oldfield School [OFS]: Watch battery and memory stick
Loreto Grammar School [LGS]: Ink cartridges and popcorn (popped and unpopped)
Sedgehill School [SEG]: Broad bean seeds and dried yeast
Withernsea high school [WHS]: Arduino microprocessor, plastic and Seeds
Ridgeway High School [RHS]: Salted and roasted peanuts
Smith’s Wood Sports College [SWS]: Various metals
Caerleon Comprehensive School [CAE]: Seeds, bubbly chocolate and watch battery
Millom School [MIL]: Algae and Yeast
Bearwood College [BWC]: Sheep eye ball, film with shielding and cress seeds
Robert Gordon’s College [RGC]: Cosmic ray film, marshmallow, glow-in-the-dark plastics, sticky notes, bubble wrap and memory stick data
Derby Moor Community Sports College [DEM]: Cress seeds, elastic bands and popcorn kernels
Vale Academy Brigg [VAB]: Water, ethanol and methanol
Pate’s Grammar School [TP]: Solar panel & fan, alkaline vs lithium battery

IMAGES FROM LAUNCH DAY

Links to high resolution versions of these images can be found on the official press release.

The MARSBalloon team with THARSIS in front of Beckington Castle. From left Claire Parfitt, Stefano Matussi, Andrew Bacon, Mike Guest and Tim Pickering [Work experience student]

The MARSBalloon team with THARSIS in front of Beckington Castle. From left Claire Parfitt, Stefano Matussi, Andrew Bacon, Mike Guest and Tim Pickering [Work experience student]

The helium balloon fully inflated and ready to launch

The helium balloon fully inflated and ready to launch

The view of Beckington Castle just after launch

The view of Beckington Castle just after launch

View from 30km altitude looking north

View from 30km altitude looking north

Unstable falling after balloon burst as parachute opens

Unstable falling after balloon burst as parachute opens

Passing through the cloud layer on the way back down, falling under parachute

Passing through the cloud layer on the way back down, falling under parachute

Condition of the experiments upon discovery in a field in Pulham

Condition of the experiments upon discovery in a field in Pulham

Positioning of the school experiment capsules in the experiment tray

Positioning of the school experiment capsules in the experiment tray

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