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World Space Week 2013: Earth Master Sample

For centuries, the collection of samples of rock, soil and ice has played a crucial part in understanding how our own planet has evolved. Collecting and analysing samples in-situ is a key task for robotic planetary missions like the Curiosity Mars Rover – and bringing rock samples from surface of Mars back to Earth is the long term goal of space agencies around the world. Now, to celebrate the theme of World Space Week 2013 – Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth – people all over the world are being invited to submit a fist-sized rock from their local area to form part of an ‘Earth Master Sample’.

A fragment from each of the resulting collection of rocks will be ground to a powder, mixed together with a Mars meteorite, and melted down by leading crystal producer, Swarovski, who will craft a unique set of 100 crystals to commemorate the event. The crystals, which will be unveiled by Swarovski at the Yuri’s Night celebrations on 12th April 2014, will be presented to representatives of space agencies, policy makers and thought leaders around the world.

The theme for World Space Week this year highlights the growing importance of planetary analogue research and the wealth of knowledge that can be derived from sample analysis, Remco Timmermans, Executive Director of World Space Week.

“By participating in the Earth Master Sample campaign, people can show their support for analogue exploration and their aspiration to see Mars exploration continue through sample return missions and, eventually, human expeditions. I would like to believe that the geologists and scientists that will explore Mars are alive today. By demonstrating the support for this campaign, we can show decision makers that Mars exploration is something that humanity – across all borders and cultural divides – really wants to achieve.”

Dr Gernot Grömer, President of the Austrian Space Forum says, “For most of the participants it will be the only time in their life that they will take a geological sample. By collecting a rock for Earth Master Sample, people will join a long tradition of explorers trying to understand their environment.”



Rocks will be submitted for the Earth Master Sample by the 12 partners in the ‘Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth’ Mars analogue campaign, including the Centro de Astrobiologia in Madrid, Spain, the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the French deep-sea diving specialists, Comex, the University of North Dakota’s Human Spaceflight Laboratory, the University of Michigan’s Mars Rover team, the Technical University of Białystok’s Hyperion rover team and Google Lunar XPRIZE teams Puli Space and Part Time Scientists.

“We can learn so much about the Red Planet from studying Mars-like place on Earth – we may even find out if life could evolve on Mars through studying ecosystems in extreme terrestrial environments,” says Dr Felipe Gomez, Mars analogue researcher at the Centro de Astrobiologia in Spain. “Likewise, we might also learn clues to our own planet’s future by studying the history of water on Mars and what happened to transform Mars into the cold, dusty planet we see today. Through analogue research, we can understand our place in the solar system.”

Words courtesy of


Steps for collecting rocks for the Earth Master Sample:

Take a picture of the sample site and a scale (e.g. classmate, family member etc.) from at least 10m distance. Take a close-up picture with a scale (e.g. hammer, pen, etc). Note your geographical location (e.g. 31°22.363 N 4°4.357 W) and take a fist-sized rock sample (no soil or sand samples please). Put the sample into a clean plastic bag. IMPORTANT: Label the sampling bag with: date (DD/MM/YY), time (HH:MM) and geographical coordinates. (e.g. 17AUG13 17:22, 47.234 N / 11.234 E). Then send an email to listing the geographical location, the two pictures and the details of a contact person. Finally post the rock-sample to:

Austrian Space Forum / Earth Master Sample Project, Sillufer 3a, 6020 Innsbruck, AUSTRIA

Deadline: 15th November 2013 (for arrival of rocks at the Austrian Space Forum)

About James Cosgrove (27 Articles)
22 • Welsh • BSc Geography & Geology • MSc Applied Meteorology graduate - University of Reading

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