Rockin’ the Space Rocks – crowd funded space research in the desert

space rocksI do love a nice bit of crowd-funded science: Space Rocks! is a project seeking funding for meteorite funding on the Nullarbor Plain. That’s space, geology and the red heart of Australia all rolled up in one. And, in addition to helping science, backers can receive their very own tektite. Here’s how they describe what they do and what they’re after:

“Do you like space? Have you ever dreamed of walking on another planet? Did you have a rock collection as kid (or still do)?  Do you think ‘asteroid miner’ is a cool future job title? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this project might just be for you!

Since 2007, our small team of researchers has gone out hunting for meteorites on the Nullarbor Plain, Australia. We do this once a year, and have found nearly 20% of Australia’s meteorites. But, sadly, our funding has run out which is why we need your help to fund this years expedition.

Space science in Australia is poorly funded because we don’t have a space program like other countries. We do our research on a shoestring budget using grant money where we can find it. We are university students and need fresh samples from the Nullarbor to conduct our research. With time constraints on our degrees, we need those samples this year. Without another field season our research will suffer or may not exist at all.

So what kind of research do we do? One of us is investigating the habitability of moons circling gas giants around other stars, just like the moon Endor from Star Wars. Another student is trying to understand the thermal history of asteroids and core formation. Understanding this may help us mine asteroids for resources one day. Lastly, one of us is investigating new places to look for microbial life on Mars. All of this is achieved by finding rocks from space in the Australian outback.

It costs billions of dollars to send rovers to planets, the Moon, comets and asteroids to look at rocks, and hundreds of billions to send people. But only a few thousand dollars is required to recover samples of these celestial bodies from the Nullarbor Plain, Australia. Meteorites come from these different bodies in the solar system, including Mars, and they are our best (and sometimes our only) way of studying various bodies.

We think space science is important because it asks the big questions such as how did planets and asteroids form? What makes Earth habitable? Where else in the universe could life exist? These sorts of questions are what our research group is trying to answer, and they are at the cutting edge of planetary science. Meteorites hold the key to some of these big questions, some of the answers to those questions could be in sitting on the Nullarbor right now. But, without people looking for them, we may never know. So please help back this project, because we think Space Rocks!”

All the rock-hard details are here.

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