[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Scientist tests for life on Mars
Svalbard - Picture courtesy of Storvik/AMASE
Parts of the Svalbard archipelago have a similar geology to Mars
A scientist from the University of Leeds is travelling to Norway to test space equipment and techniques that will help to search for life on Mars.

Reader of geo-biology Dr Liane Benning is the only scientist from the UK to be involved in the Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition (AMASE).

The team will be testing equipment on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen for use on a NASA mission to Mars in 2011.

The remote location is said to have a similar geology to the red planet.

"It is the closest we know from its geology, from its atmosphere and from what we know about its history, which is potentially very similar to what we see on earth today," said Dr Benning.

"We don't know if there's life on Mars, but we are developing technologies to try and go and actually look for it."

Previous expeditions have found signs of a microbial community within the ice on Spitsbergen, in Svalbard, supporting the theory that life could be sustained on Mars, she said.

Now the team are hoping to develop techniques to find any signs of carbon or bacteria.

Dr Benning at work on Spitsbergen in Svalbard - Picture courtesy of Storvik/AMASE
Previous trips have found signs of a microbial community in the ice

Dr Benning will be joined by scientists from Norway and the US on the expedition.

A NASA astronaut in training will also be on hand to test his space suit and the testing procedures.

One of the main aims is to develop methods that will ensure no contamination from earth when the rovers are sent to Mars, said Br Benning.

Further in the future, scientists also hope it will be possible to collect samples from the planet.

"The challenge to actually bring a rover to Mars with the equipment, make it work for a long time is already a big feat," said Dr Benning.

"But to bring a sample back is something that is in the schedule for something like 2030 and we also look forward to sending people there."


RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific