Rotorua's natural phenomena could hold the key to understanding the universe.

A team from Nasa arrives in Rotorua today to study the geological and geochemical features of the area.

Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is the United States Government agency responsible for science and technology related to air and space.

The team is with Kiwi scientists, including Wellington-based astrobiologist Haritina Mogosanu who organised the trip through Spaceward Bound, a collaborative education and research programme, in an effort to boost education and raise awareness around astrobiology.

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Nasa and Spaceward Bound will be collecting samples from Sulphur Point using rovers on Sunday. Photo / Stephen Parker
Nasa and Spaceward Bound will be collecting samples from Sulphur Point using rovers on Sunday. Photo / Stephen Parker

"We are going to go to Rotorua and look at extreme life signs, Rotorua could unlock secrets to the universe, secrets on how to find life on other planets," she said.

"We want to produce results for teachers who are studying space sciences. They can take on knowledge and teach that in the classroom, this is the main reason we are doing it. Nasa are doing research here anyway, but this is what we get out of it."

Rotorua was an important site for astrobiologists, Ms Mogosanu said.

"Astrobiology asks what life is like and how did we turn from star dust and all those particles into life, and nobody knows how that happened, so that's what astrobiologists are trying to answer and and trying to see if there is life on other planets.

"We do that by looking here to places that might be similar, and we call them analog places. Rotorua is an analog place. Beyond that, we also have species and organisms here that have never been found anywhere else on Earth," she said.

Technology strategist for Nasa Aims Research Centre Matthew Reyes said it was important Rotorua remained free from pollution.

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"We are bringing researchers to collect water samples where the gas is too toxic or it is hard to reach, testing technology, imaging and some other things. The important message to convey is that we like to go to places where they are pristine and there has been little human influence.

"It is a resource not only for locals but for the whole world."

Locals can watch the scientists as they use rovers to collect data from Sulphur Point on Sunday from 10am to 2pm.

"[Rovers] are like a small car with a remote control and they take samples and temperatures," Ms Mogosanu said.

For more information on Spaceward Bound visit http://spacewardbound.astrobiology.kiwi/spaceward-bound-new-zealand.

Anyone interested in joining field trips, assisting with lab work or attending presentations about space exploration can call Kiri Danielle on (027) 5350 202.