UCL-MSSL Mars experiment in new Exploring Space exhibition (Science Museum)

This week, a new permanent exhibition 'Exploring Space' opened at London's Science Museum. The new gallery includes hardware from UCL-MSSL, alongside models of the Beagle 2 and Huygens landers and many other exhibits. 'Exploring space' celebrates 50 years of space exploration and highlights the UK's involvement in space science and technology'.

The eye-catching instrument from MSSL is a copy of an experiment intended to study water loss via 'solar wind scavenging' at Mars - called FONEMA (Fast Omni-directional Non-scanning Energy Mass Analyser). The real thing was launched on the ill-fated Russian Mars 96 mission, but a launcher problem meant it never got to Mars.

Dr Andrew Coates, head of MSSL's Planetary Science group, says 'At the time, FONEMA was state-of-the-art and we were very disappointed that it did not make it to its target. It used a cunning combination of electric and magnetic fields to image particle energy and mass simultaneously, bringing J.J.Thomson's 1911 idea into the space age. Now, we are using ESA's Mars Express to study plasma scavenging at Mars - and looking at the same process at work at Venus and Titan, with the Venus Express and Cassini-Huygens missions. We also lead the team proposing PanCam, the eyes of ESA's next Mars lander - ExoMars - building on the development of our stereo camera system on Beagle 2'.

Dr Ady James, who managed the FONEMA instrument, says 'FONEMA was a real technical challenge but we made it to the launch pad in time. Now, it's great to see that FONEMA is being put to such good use. Inspiring the next generation of scientists is a key activity and we are delighted we were able to help'.



Notes to editors:

The UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory is the UK's largest university space research group. Space science is a discipline that demands highly innovative technologies and MSSL has an international reputation for excellence in this area.

MSSL is UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics. UCL was one of the first universities in the world to become involved in making scientific observations in space. Since MSSL was established in 1966, it has participated in over 35 satellite missions and over 200 rocket experiments. It has a unique capability of designing, building and testing instruments and other spacecraft systems on site.

Science activities are not restricted to producing instruments. MSSL scientists regularly use other facilities both space-borne and ground-based in order to address the science question at hand. MSSL’s research groups are supported by specialist engineers and a broad technology base. Courses are provided on space-science related topics, systems engineering, technology management and project management.



Dr Andrew Coates

UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory,  Holmbury St Mary, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6NT.

01483 204100, ajc@mssl.ucl.ac.uk




This page last modified 8 May, 2007 by Martin de la Nougerede


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