Royal Society Summer Science festival set to inspire next generation of space scientists

Dr Suzie Imber from the School of Physics and Astronomy with ESA astronaut Tim Peake and three schoolchildren at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Credit: ESA

Space experts from the University of Leicester will look to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with a series of live events exploring Mars as part of The Royal Society’s Summer Science festival.

School pupils will have the opportunity to ‘meet’ members of the team behind the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover, due to be launched in 2022 to search the Red Planet for signs of ancient life, as well as test their knowledge with quizzes and other interactive learning resources. Content is available for students aged 7 to 18.

The Exploring Mars activities are to be delivered by experts from the University of Leicester’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Space Park Leicester as part of The Royal Society’s Summer Science programme, taking place on digital platforms between Tuesday 8 and Friday 11 July 2021.

Students will even have the opportunity to play Martian detective, solving a crime using Raman spectroscopy developed by Dr Ian Hutchinson, Dr Melissa McHugh and Dr Hannah Lerman as part of the ExoMars mission.

John Bridges is a Professor of Planetary Science at Leicester and has played a key role in the joint European Space Agency (ESA)/Roscosmos ExoMars mission, including landing site selection, more than 350 million km away from Earth.

He said: “The Rosalind Franklin ExoMars Rover will carry Leicester and UK instruments and expertise to Mars. Our online workshop and videos show how the rover was built and how we will drill deeper than ever before for signs of ancient life.”

Professor Emma Bunce is head of the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy and President of the Royal Astronomical Society.

She added: “Mars is a fascinating planet and, given that it is of our nearest neighbours in the Solar System plus recent excitement around new missions and landers, it provides the perfect opportunity to get students of all ages excited about space and STEM subjects.

“The team have put together a brilliant programme of lectures and other interactive resources and we’d love to see as many people as possible share in what we have learned, and what we are still to learn, from the Red Planet.”

The full list of virtual events and resources includes;

  • Meet the Researchers (10.00am-10.45am, Friday 9 July) – opportunity to talk to the engineers and scientists who built the Rosalind Franklin Rover, and will use it to search for signs of ancient life on Mars
  • Lightning Lecture (12.30pm-12.45pm, Sunday 11 July) – Professor John Bridges talks about how the ExoMars is set to expand our knowledge of the Solar System
  • Mars Detectives Workshop (2.00pm-3.00pm, Sunday 11 July) – help crack the case using Raman spectroscopy and other mission tools, and learn how the instrument will be used on the surface of Mars by the researchers who built it
  • The Martian Challenge Series – test your Mars knowledge with a series of interactive quizzes
  • #BuildingExoMars – social media competition to showcase the best homemade models of Mars rovers and other future spacecraft – with LEGO prizes on offer for the winners!
  • Other on-demand content – a series of videos covering how the ExoMars rover was built including a timelapse video from start to finish of construction, the Raman and PanCam instruments, a detailed anatomy of the rover from the mission’s Project Scientist, how we selected the landing site plus how the spacecraft will get to Mars and land on the planet’s surface

Pre-booking is required for some events. Visit the Exploring Mars webpages at for more details.

Exploring Mars events are delivered in partnership with ESA/Roscomos, Airbus, the Natural History Museum, The Open University, University College London, and the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling.