14/03/2017 2:33 pm
ESA astronauts Pedro Duque (right) and Matthias Maurer (left) are in Edinburgh, UK, for the third session of the Pangaea geology course for astronauts.
The course provides astronauts with practical knowledge of Earth and planetary geology to prepare them to become effective partners of planetary scientists and engineers in designing the next exploration missions.
After classroom lessons on planetary geology in Bressanone, Italy, and field work in the Canary Islands’ Lanzarote, the third and final session sees the astronauts in Edinburgh to learn about microorganisms and where best to look for signs of life.
Together with Charles Cockell, head of the UK centre of Astrobiology, they are studying colonies of Chroococcidiopsis from the Negev desert in Israel. The bacteria were flown into space and attached to the exterior of the International Space Station in ESA’s Expose facility. After spending over a year orbiting Earth in the harsh vacuum of space, they were returned for analysis.
Knowing how life survives and adapts to harsh environments will help astronauts to communicate with geologists on the ground and better manage their time exploring planets on future missions.
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