India offers a variety of locations that could be of interest to an astrobiologist. Some of these being:
- Kutch, Gujarat
- Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
- Lonar Crater Lake and Western Deccan Trap Region
As a start, it was decided to select the Ladakh region for this programme. No comparative study between the sites was conducted and it is the intention to eventually revisit India and conduct astrobio/geological research at the other sites as well. Some of the factors that played a role for the selection of Ladakh region were:
- Availability of several astrobio/geologically interesting features within same region and coverable distances, such as: cold high altitude desert soils, hot springs, permafrosts, glaciers, saline and palaeo-lakes.
- Low human habitation/intervention which has resulted in pristine eco-systems, very appropriate for terrestrial analogue studies.
- High altitude environment for conducting human dexterity and performance based tests.
- Remoteness and difficult to access regions simulating the challenges of transportation, resource utilization and communication of Off Earth human missions.
- High altitude clear night skies for astronomy and astrophotography.
- Utilize the appeal and ‘out of this world’ landscape to complement the science education promotion goals of this pilot project.
- Our science definition members from Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany have extensively covered this region.
NASA Spaceward Bound India 2016 Dates: Exact dates to be confirmed very shortly. Tentative window: August 7-20 2016
Since this is our first expedition in India, and one of the most challenging Spaceward Bound ventures planned due to the rough and inaccessiblity of the region, it was decided to take a core group of expeditioners to scout the transects along with our Indian researchers and their students and conduct planned experiments. We hope to make NASA Spaceward Bound India a recurring event and shall invite applications in future expeditions from students to participate in the field program. For the 2016 edition, there shall be several ways students can remotely participate in activities. Keep watching the Participate! tab on the left for more information to be released soon.