Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

How do everyday objects here on Earth stand a chance of surviving on distant Mars?

To find out, over two-dozen UK students have flown 80 experiments high above Earth courtesy of the MARSBalloon project.

The experiments were lofted 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) up into Earth’s atmosphere on a high altitude balloon named Tharsis – after a volcanic region of Mars.

At that height, the student investigations experienced temperatures as low as -50°C, pressures of 1 percent of that at sea level and increased levels of radiation; conditions which are very similar to that of the surface of the Red Planet. These conditions can rapidly degrade materials, damage electronics and sterilize organics.

MARSBalloon student experimenters: Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

MARSBalloon student experimenters:
Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

The MARSBalloon launch took place from Frome, Somerset, landing on farmland in Pulham, Dorchester some two hours later. The recovered experiments were returned to the students who made them. They are encouraged to write up their scientific results for publishing on the project website.

Career boosting idea

The project was devised and is run by young space engineers from Thales Alenia Space UK with funding from the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council. This unique project is aimed at encouraging young people to take up careers in the UK space industry.

Up, up and away. MARSBalloon readied for liftoff. Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

Up, up and away. MARSBalloon readied for liftoff.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

All of the experiments flown on the June 19th mission developed by 30 UK secondary school students had to fit inside a Kinder Surprisetm toy capsule and were mounted onto a special tray beneath the balloon to maximize their exposure to the hostile environment.

The next MARSBalloon launch, named Elysium after another Martian volcanic region, is planned for mid-October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student experiments on high-altitude run. Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

Student experiments on high-altitude run.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space UK

UK secondary school teachers interested in entering their class or club into this flight can do so by going to the project website:

www.marsballoon.com

Full details of the flight including video highlights, imagery, flight data and experiment results are to be published on a dedicated website page.

 

 

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