Spaceward Bound expeditions offer a unique opportunity whereby teachers/ senior students in the earth and space science fields can develop communication and educational relationships with international science teams and engage in hands-on investigations in the field.
The objectives of Spaceward Bound New Zealand are
- To encourage and facilitate collaboration between top space and geo scientists from NASA and New Zealand;
- To facilitate professional development for New Zealand teachers in the Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) and Nature of Science (NOS) fields;
- To bring New Zealand into the existing international Spaceward Bound programme that qualifies teachers for other Spaceward Bound projects (to date these have taken place in USA, Australia, Antarctica, Namibia, UAE, and the Arctic);
- To fulfill the astrobiology research objective of investigating extreme geological and biological environments on Earth as analogues for conditions on other planets;
- To investigate and experience technological challenges of human space exploration.
Spaceward Bound New Zealand is an initiative of the New Zealand Astrobiology Network – NZAN
What makes New Zealand a great place for astrobiology research
New Zealand is famous for its diverse environments.
As a consequence New Zealand is considered to be among the best astrobiology field sites in the world. For example there are unique extremophiles in the geothermal hot springs in the Rotorua and Lake Taupo areas, and New Zealand provides unique access the to K-Pg Boundary and to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, to mention only a few locations.
New Zealand is a world-leader in biosecurity, which is an essential component to planetary protection.
New Zealand is one of two primary waypoints to Antarctica.
New Zealand is the new Southern Hemisphere base for the SOFIA (airborne space telescope) team actively observing the centre of our galaxy; this programme is expected to run for the next twenty years.
New Zealand scientists are prominent in most of the interdisciplinary fields which comprise astrobiology science. New Zealand expertise in microbiology, ecology, biosecurity, physics, astronomy, radio astronomy and geology, to name only a few, provide a rich and accessible knowledge base to inform further astrobiology research.
New Zealand has a rich cultural heritage derived from a history of exploration and astronomy. Both Polynesians and Europeans arrived here guided by the stars.
All of these arguments and more provide strong rationale to put New Zealand ‘on the astrobiology map’ and join the international team of astrobiology scientists around the world, so that together we can begin to tackle the biggest unresolved questions facing humanity, such as ‘What is life?’, ‘Where is life?’, and ‘How do we find it?’… and perhaps even the biggest question of all: ‘What is life worth?’
Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe. It encompasses the origin, evolution and history of life on Earth and also includes study of the potential for extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology provides an innovative interdisciplinary framework to investigate some of the most fundamental questions in science. Astrobiology unites physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, molecular biology, ecology, planetary science, geography, and geology to study “anything and everything about life on Earth in order to understand how life might arise and survive elsewhere in the Universe”.
Instigator of Spaceward Bound New Zealand