Red planet.

Lafarge quarry rocks mimic Mars

Published:  13 August, 2010

MOUNTSORREL: It may be millions of miles from Mars, but rocks from the Lafarge granite quarry in Mountsorrel have been masquerading as the Red Planet's landscape.

Overburden from the site was used by space research and development specialists, Magna Parva, to mimic Martian rocks for an exhibition about interplanetary drilling tools.

The exhibition, at the recent Farnborough Airshow, highlighted tools being designed for the planned NASA and European Space Agency rover mission to Mars in 2018.

Magna Parva has already been working on the ExoMars project for the last five years.

ExoMars's main mission is to discover the secret of life on Mars, drilling below the surface of the planet, taking and testing samples of rock and beaming back the results.

Andrew Bowyer, managing director at Magna Parva, said: "Our stand at Farnborough showcased the research and development we are doing on tools for drilling holes and sampling rocks on other planets such as Mars. We called Lafarge because we knew the overburden from Mountsorrel was red and we asked for a small amount to simulate the surface of Mars for our display. The stand certainly caused a lot of interest."

Together with the University of Leicester Magna Parva are building the Life-Marker Chip, known as the Mars 'pregnancy test' which will assess samples for biomarkers indicating the presence of life past or present.

Angus Shedden, operations manager at Mountsorrel Quarry, said: "We were delighted to assist Magna Parva with rocks from Mountsorrel for its Mars display. It's not often we are asked to provide minerals to help showcase such an exciting and significant scientific project."

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