About the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) provides free access to the world’s largest collection of planetary simulation and analysis facilities, data services and tools, a ground-based observational network and programme of community support activities. 

The project is funded through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and runs for four years from February 2020 until January 2024. The Europlanet 2024 RI consortium is led by the University of Kent, UK, and has 53 beneficiary institutions from 21 countries in Europe and around the world, with a further 44 affiliated partners. The project draws on the resources of the Europlanet Society to disseminate activities and outcomes and develop a more diverse community of users.

Europlanet 2024 RI provides:

Europlanet 2024 RI Services:

Europlanet 2024 RI’sTA1 Planetary Field Analogues (PFA) provide the most realistic terrestrial geological-geomorphological analogues for volcanic, dry-and humid-cold, hot, highly saline and metalliferous and impact conditions for studies in support of current and forthcoming missions to Mars, the Moon and the icy moons of Jupiter. Europlanet 2024 RI offers free ‘transnational access’ to five diverse PFA sites around the world to carry out research projects

BIUST as one of the beneficiaries is coordinating the accesses to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Planetary Field Analogue (https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-2024-ri/ta1-pfa/ta1-facility-5-makgadikgadi-salt-pans-botswana/

TA1 Facility 5 – Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Average visit: 1 week

The Makgadikgadi pans of Botswana represent the largest inland evaporitic basin in the world. The pans provide different environments that vary from the playa lake with the ephemeral spring to the fossil dunes field. 

The Makgadikgadi is fed by surface runoff and by groundwater upwelling that give rise to flood channels, ephemeral springs, layered morphologies and evaporite deposits. These peculiar layered morphologies are easily identified from remote sensing and can be compared with those observed in the equatorial region of Mars, for instance. The flat surface of the pan is wiped by hundreds of dust-devils that, at the end of the rain season, can be several tens of meters high. This wind-wiped surface is ideal for testing instruments and techniques in preparation for future missions.

The surface of the pan is dry for 8 months, from April to November, and is characterised by precipitation of layers of authigenic clays and evaporites such as gypsum and halite. Within this crust the microbial communities of extremophiles including bacteria, algae and fungi are thriving providing good ground for astrobiological research of extreme environments. Understanding functional metagenomics and metabolism of the saltpans gives valuable information on the molecular adaptation and resistance of these extremophiles to extreme environmental conditions.



Fulvio Franchi,

Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Private Bag 16, Palapye, Botswana.

Mail to: franchif@biust.ac.bw

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149