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OpenMinds: Why visit Mars and what we might find there?

Updated Friday, 3rd February 2017

Join us at the Ulster Museum, Belfast or online as we host an enlightening talk exploring the question: Why visit Mars and what we might find there?  

Date: Tuesday 21 February

Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Venue: The Northern Ireland Festival of Science,

Ulster Museum, Belfast

The question of what it might be like to stand on Mars and what it could reveal about the origins of life, will be addressed by two Open University academics at the Northern Ireland Science Festival on Tuesday 21 February.

In an OpenMinds Talk: Why visit Mars and what we might find there? Dr Stephen Lewis (@Stephen_Lewis_), OU Senior Lecturer, School of Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and Rhian Chapman (@RhianInSPACE), PhD student, will look at the challenges of landing on the Red Planet and markers of life there.


Dr Lewis will question why missions fly to Mars, why it is so hard to land there and what the recent European Space Agency ExoMars 2016 mission found there and will reveal next.

As co-principal Investigator for the AMELIA team that was primed to receive initial data returned by Schiaparelli during its descent on 19 October 2016 during the ExoMars mission, Dr Lewis is well placed to comment and show some images of where Schiaparelli ended up. He will also update on what gases the scientific instruments on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will detect when the instruments are turned on next year.

Rhian Chapman, who is doing her PhD on the formation of small and regional dust storms on Mars, their influence on the Martian climate, and their potential impact on future Mars lander missions, will look at the environment on Mars. She will discuss surface conditions and temperatures, gravity, surface temperatures, and even look at the weather forecast on Mars.

She will go on to look at the landers and rovers that have recently been on the surface of Mars: Phoenix, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity and at imminent missions: Insight, Mars2020 and ExoMars rover.

Dr Lewis said: “Recent missions have shown that it is hard to land safely on the Martian surface. But getting to Mars is important as it provides answers to whether ancient life started on the planet, if it has survived to this day, or if the Earth is truly unique and why.”

To attend the event in person: book here  

Can’t join in person? Watch the event live online

If you are viewing the event by livestream, please do take the opportunity to have your questions answered by our speakers LIVE during the event by posting in the COMMENTS BOX below this article.  


The Open University is delighted to be taking part in the NI Science Festival for the third year running. 

Northern Ireland Science Festival Logo Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: NI Science Festival space science masters image

Study space science at postgraduate level to prepare for managing major missions like those to Mars:

MSc in Space Science and Technology

Study space science at undergraduate level:

Questions in science - introductory level

Planetary science and the search for life




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