Periodic Reporting for period 3 - EPN2020-RI (EUROPLANET 2020 Research Infrastructure)
Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-08-31
EPN2020-RI’s TA programme offered free access to laboratory facilities and field sites tailored to planetary research. Travel and local accommodation costs were supported for researchers to visit a facility for an approved time period. EPN2020-RI’s JRA programme added upgraded laboratory facilities and two new field sites (Lake Tirez, Spain, as a Martian analogue and Dallol in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia, as an analogue of Venus and the early Earth) to the TA programme. The full suite of TA facilities offered by EPN2020-RI included:
• Planetary Field Analogues - 5 terrestrial field sites (the Danakil Depression (Ethiopia), Rio Tinto and Lake Tirez (Spain), Ibn Battuta (Morocco) and Iceland) that provide realistic analogues of planetary surfaces.
• The Distributed Planetary Simulation Facility - 7 laboratory facilities that simulate conditions found in atmospheres and on surfaces of planetary objects, and allow characterisation of mineral samples and biological samples with astrobiological relevance.
• The Distributed Sample Analysis Facility - 4 laboratories for the analysis of meteorites and sample returns.
EPN2020-RI approved 320 TA applications enabling 194 visits to take place. Research projects have included:
• A study of how dust devil activity varies through the day in the Mars-like conditions of the Moroccan desert.
• A project to isolate extremophiles in the Lake Tirez system that can survive in conditions similar to briny water on Jupiter´s Moon, Europa and chloride deposits found in the Southern highlands of Mars.
• Simulations of the formation and evolution of CO2 ice crystals in the martian polar regions.
• An investigation of the morphology and context of the earliest traces of life on Earth in early Archaean rocks from South America and Western Australia.
• A study of the fate of carbon during the formation of the Earth’s core by measuring the abundance of carbon in silicate/metallic phases of samples at extreme pressure and temperature conditions.
The Planetary Space Weather Service (PSWS) VA programme developed 12 services in 5 toolkits for tracking planetary or solar events through the Solar System to assist researchers and industry planning for space missions: http://planetaryspaceweather-europlanet.irap.omp.eu/.
The Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access (VESPA) VA developed a Virtual Observatory for planetary science, offering diverse datasets, visualisation and analysis/modelling tools for comparing and understanding planetary environments. At the end of the project, VESPA had 52 tools available, surpassing the upper limit of 50 estimated in the project proposal. A further 12 services are currently being reviewed (https://voparis-confluence.obspm.fr/display/VES/EPN-TAP+Services) thus VESPA will continue to be added to and enhanced beyond the lifetime of EPN2020-RI.
EPN2020-RI’s NAs have hosted or co-hosted 84 scientific and industrial foresight workshops, attended by 3462 participants, and have supported 8 summer schools. Special efforts have been made to build capacity in the European planetary science community, with targeted engagement programmes aimed at under-represented member states, early career researchers, amateur astronomers, and industry.
EPN2020-RI NAs have provided a forum for coordinated feedback into consultation processes by policy makers, e.g. for discussions on Horizon Europe, and have held an exhibition, two dinner debates and multiple one-to-one briefings with Members of the European Parliament.
Results from EPN2020-RI have been successfully disseminated through the Europlanet Media Centre and social media channels. The Europlanet Media Centre has issued 81 press releases on outputs of the project and planetary science topics, resulting in coverage by major media outlets in 61 countries worldwide.
EPN2020-RI was also active in programmes to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, holding 25 live webinars for schools and teachers, collating six peer-reviewed collections of educational resources and producing five animated videos on planetary topics.
PSWS has broken new ground in understanding how space weather affects several regions in the Solar System and VESPA has established itself as the leading Virtual Observatory for planetary science. ESA has implemented a test of VESPA’s “EPN-TAP” access protocols on the Planetary Science Archive (PSA). The PSA includes 6 million files from 30 years of planetary science missions in Europe, and VESPA now provides access to around 18.3 million files, including historical collections starting in 1890.
EPN2020-RI has built a more politically aware community of researchers and effective dissemination channels to highlight results of European researchers. It has supported expansion and capacity-building in the planetary science community and has created a sustainable legacy through the launch of the Europlanet Society in 2018.
Overall, EPN2020-RI has directly supported the research of hundreds of scientists through TAs and attracted several thousand online users through its VA programmes. Workshops, meetings and conferences organised through EPN2020-RI have been attended by over 8000 researchers, while many thousands more members of the public have been engaged through EPN2020-RI outreach programmes, and millions worldwide through media coverage of planetary activities related to Europlanet. EPN2020-RI has thus delivered the advanced infrastructure that the European planetary sciences community needs to retain its position as a global leader in space exploration.