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Spaceward Bound Australia 2009

Uploading of All Photos Completed

2nd September, 2009
Virtually all of the expedition photographs have now been uploaded. (This amounts to over 5000 images). These can be seen on the photo galleries page, where they are organised by date and photographer. Because of the sheer volume of images, it has not been possible to caption these, but you can get a general sense of the region where they were taken by cross-checking the dates with the expedition intinerary.

Expedition Returns to Adelaide

16th July, 2009
The expedition team has now all returned to Adelaide from Lyndhurst, after a long drive through the day stopping at a number of sites of geological interest throughout the Flinders Ranges. More reports and photos will be posted online shortly.

Reedy Springs

15th July, 2009
With some heavy showers last evening, there was some uncertainty as to whether the road to Reedy Spring would be open this morning, but at 9am we got the all clear to go and the team headed off. Along the way we stopped at several sites of relatively barren gibber desert to look for desert crusts, finding only a light, very scattered distribution. Reedy Spring is a large gully system fed by slowly seeping artesian springs. Some substantial areas of microbial mats were identified and sampled. (More detailed accounts of the scientific interest of the springs are included in the reports section). Some of the teachers present also tried on and tested the analogue suits we have brought with us from the Victorian Space Science Education Centre. In the evening Dr Penny Boston gave a talk on her research into microbial mats in caves and deserts.

From Marree to Lyndhurst

14th July, 2009
After spending the night in the historic Marree hotel, the expedition today moves from Marree to Lyndhurst, splitting up into groups to undertake a variety of field activities. One party is chartering a helicopter to fly over Clayton Springs and take aerial photographs of the surrounding area. Another is heading up the Birdville track looking for microbial crusts, while another party has travelled to Lyndhurst early to set up the laboratory. Several of the groups begun by visiting a particularly interesting rock field near the Marree airfield pointed out by Chris McKay, which includes colonies of algaes beneath some of the quartz stones. More photographs have now been uploaded to the photo galleries from previous days. Keep leaving your questions and comments on the expedition messageboard!

Expedition Arrives at Marree

13th July, 2009
This morning the expedition left Arkaroola for Marree, some four hours drive to the north. Along the way we stopped at the town of Copley for lunch, where the accompanying film crew conducted their final interviews before heading back to Adelaide. We then proceeded to Lyndhurst, then on to Marree where will stay the night. Along the way we passed a large open cut coal mine opened during the 1910s and the remains of the old railway to Alice Springs. Once we had settled into the hotel, part of the team went out on an initial scouting trip to visit number of outlying sites of interest. These were areas of low rainfall which included a variety of low vegetation terrains. Biologist Elaine Bryant stopped to undertake sampling before the team headed back to the hotel for dinner. We plan to return to these sites tomorrow.

Some Serious Science

12th July, 2009
Today the serious science started, with the expedition party dividing off into a number of smaller groups which fanned out over the local region. Science focussed on the investigation of microbial crusts, desert varnishes, lichen colonies, water hole/spring communities and fossilised microbial mats and stromatolites. Read some of the field reports. Several of the team went on a flight over Arkaroola to take aerial photographs, courtesy of the resort owner, Doug Sprigg. In the evening there were lectures by Dr Jennifer Heldmann on a forthcoming lunar impactor mission, by Dr Adrian Brown on results from the Mars Reconaissance Orbitor and by David Willson on space design projects for students. The accompanying film crew undertook filming for a forthing space documentary on National Geographic during the day, including an extensive interview with Dr Chris McKay.

Don't forget to leave any comments or questions for the expedition team on the Messageboard.

First Day in the Field

11th July, 2009
The first day at Arkaroola was spent undertaking reconaissance visits to a number of sites of scientific interest. We begun by visiting the spectacular dried gorge along Stubbs Creek, then driving on to Paralana Hot Springs were we stopped to have lunch. Paralana Hot Springs are a remarkable water source which is heated by a combination of geothermal heat and radioactive decay. The waters emit radon gas and are mild radioactive. As such, the site is of considerable interest to astrobiologists as an abode for extremophiles, and an analogue for similar features on Mars. One the way back the team split into two groups, which commenced undertaking field sampling work on the way home. Wildlife including emus and an echidna were sighted. In the evening we had a special dinner outdoors, and afterwards listened in to a discussion between the various field scientists as to their strategies for the next few days.

Arkaroola being a remote location mean that internet access is limited, however we intend to post news stories, field reports and photos over the coming days, so stay tuned. Also, feel free to post comments or questions for the expedition team on the Messageboard.

Expedition Leaves Adelaide

10th July, 2009
The Spaceward Bound Australia 2009 Expedition left Adelaide on the morning of Friday 10th July. Heading north, the convoy stopped briefly at Port Wakefield, then again for lunch at the Mobil service station past Port Pirie, where Dr Vic Gostin gave a brief talk on the geology of the Flinders Ranges area. The next stop was the town of Quorn, then the Mobil service station at Teagues. We then followed the highway north past Leigh Creek and Copley before finally arriving at Arkaroola, sighting a few kangaroos and wallabies on the route ask dusk approached. The film crew from Essential Media which is accompanying the expedition took a longer route past Wilpurna Pound. After unpacking and settling into our quarters for the next three nights, we finished off the day with a friendly BBQ.

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