A contribution by Flo Bullough, Head of Policy and Engagement, Geological Society of London

Here at the Geological Society of London we are turning our gaze upwards this year to the rocks and geology in our Solar System as part of our 2021 Year of Space, inspired by the spectacular landing of Nasa’s latest Mars Rover. Way back in July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, NASA launched its latest Mars Rover, the Perseverance. 7 months later, and a whopping 471 million kilometres travelled, Perseverance landed on Mars on 18 February 2021 complete with all sorts of equipment to measure and understand the surface and geology of Mars. This includes cameras to take 3D images of Martian rocks and minerals to help understand past environments, and instrument that can measure the chemical composition of rocks from a distance and ground-penetrating radar that can be used to study rocks below the surface! And, in a solar system first, Perseverance is carrying its very own helicopter called ‘Ingenuity’ which will be taking off soon! You can learn more about the incredible things that Perseverance can do in the image below.

To celebrate this incredible mission, on Perseverance launch day in July 2020, the Geological Society organised a Q&A with a group of planetary geology researchers to answer all manner of questions from the public, everything from why is the Earth spinning to why is Mars red? You can find answers to these and more on the @geolsoc Instagram page under our saved stories!

If your interest in the features and geology of other planets extends beyond Mars, then why not check out our Year of Space public lecture series? We’ll be taking a tour of the rocks and geology of our solar system all the way from impact craters on Mercury, to volcanoes on Venus, the search for life on Mars to the asteroid belt and beyond! We are running our free, online public lectures every month this year, each one on a different planet in the solar system! So far we had an introductory lecture on the Solar System with Professor Sara Russell from the Natural History Museum followed by Professor Dave Rothery who took us on a tour of the features and rocks of Mercury! You can find all of the past talks we’ve hosted on the Geological Society’s YouTube channel or if you would like to sign up for our future public lectures, head to the Year of Space area of our website for more information. 

And there’s more! If you’d like to combine your love of creative writing or poetry with space, then the Society has teamed up with Creative Manchester at Manchester University to launch a micropoetry competition on the theme of ‘space’. The possibilities are infinite, whether you’re inspired by the solar system, meteorites, comets, planets, moon or stars, your challenge is to compress your poetic creation into 280 characters and post it on twitter with the hashtag #micropoem21. The competition is open to all until Monday 21 June 2021 and the prize for 1st place is £500! You can find more information on the Creative Manchester webpage.

This article has been published in the April 2021 edition of the ENGIE Magazine.