Planetary missions

We are involved in missions to space to collect samples that are used in research. We have been part of all of the recent major missions to space, including those run by NASA and the ESA. 

Extraterrestrial sample return

We undertake laboratory analysis of the solar wind, comets, asteroids and Moon rocks returned to Earth by space missions. We have worked on every sample return mission to date including:

  • Apollo and Luna – samples returned from the Moon’s surface by the NASA Apollo manned missions and Soviet Union’s robotic Luna missions
  • Genesis – samples of the solar wind returned by NASA’s Genesis mission
  • Hayabusa 1 and 2 – samples of asteroids returned by JAXA’s Hayabusa 1 and 2 missions
  • Stardust – samples of a comet returned by NASA’s Stardust mission

We are involved in meteorite recovery expeditions to collect new meteorite samples from Earth field settings. Researchers in the group are leading the first UK-led meteorite recovery mission to Antarctica.


Working with the European Space Agency, we will be part of the science team that delivers the PROSPECT instrument as part of the Russian Luna 27 mission to the Moon. The lander mission will fly to the south polar region of the Moon to drill for samples of lunar soil from around 1 meter in depth. The samples will be delivered to a mass spectrometer to determine the concentration and light isotope (H, N, C, O, noble gases) geochemistry to understand the source and origin of lunar polar volatiles.

Planetary atmospheres

Along with colleagues in the Centre for Atmospheric Science, we use the PlanetWRF model to simulate the atmosphere of Mars to understand how atmospheric convection has shaped the landscape over Mars’s history. Previously we have used our expertise in making in situ ice cloud measurements in collaboration with scientists using the Phoenix lander on Mars to quantify the ice-water content of clouds near the Polar Regions.

We are also using data from the recent Cassini mission combined with numerical modelling techniques to understand the formation and persistence of the Hexagon wind pattern at Saturn’s North Pole. 

Research expertise

We are actively involved in researching the history of our galaxy and solar system.

Our facilities

There are a number of facilities available to our researchers and students.