A visit to the Facebook page for the astrogeology club, Exostrata, reveals a dynamic group of passionate geologists who are seeking a better understanding of the processes of outer space, planets, solar systems, and more, affiliated with AAPG’s Astrogeology Committee.
Welcome to an interview with Adrian Vilchez Luna, one of the founding members.
What's your name and history?
My name is Adrián Vílchez Luna and I am a student of last year of geology at the University of Granada, Spain. Since childhood has always caught my attention the universe and everything that makes it, especially the planets. However, we live on earth, and I have always been curious about the phenomena that give life, its geology, hence I finally decided to start my university career in this science, but I've always liked physics.
Apart from cofundar ExoEstrato: Andalusian Society of Astrogeology with my colleagues, I have also played role as a teacher or monitor in our courses/workshops or informative activities (astronomical observations), gaining experience in the face public and teamwork.
How did you get involved in Astrogeology?
In Spain, very few researchers are dedicated to the planetary sciences and there is no institution that will impart masters or subjects in the race on this subject. Therefore, in view of the emptiness of this science in our country, we decided to found ExoEstrato. I got involved in astrogeology reading books and articles of different scientific topics, watching documentaries and above all, now with society, we are doing various types of research, such as study and analysis through techniques (XRD, XRF, SEM, etc) geochemistry of a NWA ordinary chondrite type meteorite. On a personal level, I carry out my own research on early volcanic super-eruptions of the Olympus Mons, Tharsis and its implications in the evolution of the Martian climate. In addition, I will do my thesis on: Risk modeling and impact craters associated with asteroids type M, studying their physical- chemical and compositional parameters (geochemistry).
Why are you interested in Astrogeology? What's your ultimate goal?
As I said at the beginning, since I was a child I took part of my attention. The topic I am most interested in are planets and planetary systems, as they evolve and form, and above all, the physical-chemical processes that produce changes in them. My favorite planet is Mars, I am fully "in love" with him, his geology, his mysteries. My goal a priori is to devote myself to the astrogeología when I finish my university career, focusing on Mars, but without forgetting, other topics that interest me and which also includes the Red Planet. These are: The study of our solar system, exoplanet systems in growth stage, asteroids (risk of impacts and their craters), and the study and analysis of meteorites.
Are you involved in robotics or sensors used in astrogeology?
I'm not involved, but if I had the opportunity to be a part of it, I would love to design and model geological instrumentation for future missions in the exploration of the solar system's rocky bodies. For example, techniques and instrumentation for the diversion of potentially dangerous asteroids.
What are your views on the exploration of Mars?
I really think that it is necessary to expand the human being in space. I believe that knowledge and exploration on Mars will enrich us both scientifically and technologically. We are in an advanced era, we must not be afraid to explore, because we have been doing since our birth as humanity. Mars is a planet rich in geology, and contains mysteries that we must reveal, mysteries that will help to understand a little better the history of our cosmic neighborhood, and perhaps can respond to some of the greatest unknowns of the human being. Can there be life on another planet? Is the future of the Earth to be like Mars?
Space missions have provided us with sufficient data for generations to follow, but many of these questions remain in the air, and they need a solution. I think that solution is called space exploration.
Mars, therefore, is our closest destination, and will be our field of training in space for the development of new techniques and scientific instrumentation.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to carry out a master of specialization in planetary geology, and then perform the doctoral thesis or on some aspect of Mars or on risks of asteroid impacts near the Earth (detection, classification and subsequent calculation of probability of impact). However, my passion for disclosure makes it outweigh the purely scientific side, but also fulfil my social side.
In the long run, my dream has always been to work for some space agency in some planetary exploration program. However, I will not abandon the field of scientific disclosure and astrogeology.