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by Sofia Villegas
14 February 2024
Scottish university to play a part in groundbreaking international space mission

The University of Aberdeen will form part of mission to explore the habitability of Mars | Alamy

Scottish university to play a part in groundbreaking international space mission

A Scottish university will play a role in an international space exploration mission to Mars.

The University of Aberdeen will join the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop an instrument capable of monitoring air and ground conditions for a rover to study habitability in the planet.

Scientists will receive a share of a £7.4m fund - £320k - from the UK Space Agency for their project, named HABIT.

The Scottish institution will join a cohort of seven universities as part of the Space Science and Exploration Bilateral programme.

Other teams will be involved in missions to the moon and Venus.

Andrew Griffith, UK space minister, said: “From exploring water on Mars and the possibility of sustained human activity on the red planet, to how galaxies evolved over time, our more than £7m investment is pushing the boundaries of space discovery and putting the UK at the heart of some of the most important global space missions”.

Projects were selected following an initial £400,000 funding round in 2022.

The Open University will receive the highest share of funding for a single project - £2m. It will partner with the Canada Space Agency to develop a high-performance detector for the International Mars Ice Mapper mission to map accessible water ice deposits on the planet’s surface.

Receiving over £2.5 m of the total share, the University of Leicester will work on two projects. In one it will partner with NASA to create high-level science data products for the study of universe formation.

For its other project, it will join the Japanese company iSpace to build the Raman spectroscopy instrument for the company’s lunar endeavour. This tool will help analyse and identify molecules, supporting the Japanese programme to establish resource utilisation infrastructure on the moon that could benefit future lunar exploration missions. 

More than £300k will be allocated to the University of Royal Holloway to develop software for the Indian Space Agency’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter to detect ice under the surface of the lunar south pole and map the surface of Venus.

Launched in 2003, the Chandrayaan programme investigates the use of lunar resources for deeper exploration of the moon, and last year its Chandrayaan-3 mission became the first in the world to successfully land on the lunar south pole. 

A share of the multi-million-pound fund will also be awarded to projects from the University of Sussex and the University of Cambridge.

The announcement comes amid the Global Space and Technology Convention in Singapore. 

With a two-day conference scheduled to begin tomorrow, the event aims to encourage international collaborations with the Asian space sector.

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