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UK Space Agency to spend £7.4 million on Moon, Mars and Venus projects

The moon

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has announced £7.4 million in funding for several projects that will ensure the country plays a part in global space missions to the Moon, Mars, and Venus in the coming years. The funding will allow various UK institutions to work with the likes of ISRO (Indian space agency) and NASA (American space agency).

One of the seven projects that was granted funding will involve the Space Science and Exploration Bilateral Programme helping Royal Holloway, University of London, develop software for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 and Shukrayaan orbiters. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will help detect sub-surface ice on the lunar south pole while Shukrayaan will map the surface of Venus – this work will be important because Venus is covered in thick cloud making it difficult to map the surface.

The project getting the most funding is called I-MIM (International Mars Ice Mapper) and will involve The Open University working with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The Open University will work on high performance detectors for the Mars multispectral and stereo imager for the International Mars Ice Mapper mission so that a map can be made of accessible water ice deposits on the Martian surface.

A summary of each of the missions is given below:

Chandrayaan-2 and Shukrayaan (Royal Holloway and ISRO, India) - £306,000 

  • Processing of multi-band radar and developing analysis software for missions to detect lunar south pole sub-surface ice and map surface of Venus.

Star-X (University of Leicester and NASA, USA) - £650,000 

  • High-level science data products, accessible via a web portal, and a UK data archive, for the study of Universe formation using the time-domain method and “multi-messenger” astrophysics.

FIR missions (University of Sussex and NASA, USA) - £1.1 million 

  • Provision of superconducting detectors, detector systems, optics, filters and data pipelines for a potential probe mission to investigate formation of planetary systems and the evolution of galaxies.

HABIT (University of Aberdeen and JAXA, Japan) - £320,000

  • Provision of instrument monitoring air and ground temperature, wind, humidity and hydration state of salts, for a Mars rover/lander studying water cycle, chemistry, and habitability

I-MIM (The Open University and CSA, Canada) - £2 million

  • High performance detectors for the Mars multispectral and stereo imager for the International Mars Ice Mapper mission to map accessible water ice deposits on the Martian surface.

Lunar Spectroscopy (University of Leicester and iSpace, Japan) - £1.5 million

  • Lead development of the raman analytical spectroscopy instrument, based on the raman laser spectrometer, for commercial small lunar landers and rovers that will explore the lunar surface for space resource utilisation.

CosmoCube (University of Cambridge and NASA, USA) - £1.5 million

  • Lead for project, payload and science, mission and space platform for a cube-sat that will deploy a precision radiometer to measure spectral distortions in the Universe’s cosmic microwave background.

According to the government, £400,000 has already been awarded to these projects in previous funding rounds so this additional £7.6 million will bring the total to £8 million. One common complaint you hear from people about space travel is the cost; relatively speaking, £8 million is not very much when it comes to spending on space and for the number of projects that the money will help, it seems pretty well spent.

Source: Gov UK

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