On the Polar Explorer’s Day, Valerii Lukin, head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, SPbU lecturer, told about key research project in the Antarctic. He told about neutrino detectors, living organisms of the Antarctic in pharmacy, and “outer space” expeditions in the Antarctic.
The unique nature of Antarctic creates unique opportunities to study climate changes, to investigate the Solar-Earth links, to predict auroral storms, and to monitor environments. What are the key research projects in the Antarctic today?
The research area that all the countries are involved in is bioprospecting, which is a process of using genetic codes of the living organisms adapted to the extreme conditions of the Antarctic to produce new drugs. Now we face a challenge to take this process under control, as, through developing some organisms, we can create incredibly dangerous viruses, and HIV can be seen a mere bagatelle in comparison with them.
On the key research projects in the Antarctic is a neutrino detector to study the particles the matter consists of. The research was initiated as far as in USSR, they placed neutrino detectors primarily near the Baikal Lake. At the same time our American peers work in the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station at the South Pole, the southernmost place on the Earth.
Another priority area is subglacial water flow. It is related to hydrology, limnology, glaciology, biology, and geology. The research is primarily carried out by the Russian scientists, together with our colleagues from America, Great Britain, and China.
A few words about the Solar-Earth links. They are vital to ensure proper work of various communications systems, navigation, engineering systems in the Polar Regions (power transmission, pipeline systems). Strong excitations can cause serious damage to the engineering systems. Russia, USA, Japan, and Australia are key players in the sphere.
As for the biodiversity, the South Sea, rather than Antarctic, has the greatest potential of biodiversity. Little, if any, is known about the South Sea, although its biodiversity potential is great.
Obviously, climate change is the key issue, and how we tackle this issue will greatly influence on our economics and safety in the nearest future.
At last, but not at least, a few words about the expeditions to the Antarctic as a model for outer space expeditions to the nearest Solar System objects, the Moon and Mars primarily. The conditions in the Arctic are similar to those on other planets. First, in the Antarctic we can test various materials and technologies under the conditions similar to those in the outer space: low temperature welding, system and equipment testing. Secondly, like in outer space expeditions, during the Antarctic expeditions the teams live in isolation, and it can greatly affect their psychological and physiological state, which is studies in the relevant fields of study. Scientists have an opportunity to observe people of various ages, of various social backgrounds and various educations. And it is vital in the research like this.
What are the countries actively involved in the research in the Antarctic?
Those with the greatest economic, research and technological potential: USA< Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and China.
The Antarctic is the only continent with no industry, agriculture, transport and urban settlements. What is the role of the Antarctic in our life?
The Antarctic is an international nature reserve for maintaining peace, encouraging international cooperation and advancing science. How the continent is going to develop greatly depends on the market of energy potential in the world. If we need new sources of natural resources, the global community (primarily the developed countries which need substantial energy resources) will revise the current agreements. Hydrocarbon exploration in the Antarctic will be extremely costly, and the access to these resources will be of strategic importance, politically and economically.
What are the key tasks we have in relation to research and exploration of the Antarctic?
First of all, we should politically preserve and develop agreements on the Antarctic; define how the Antarctic can influence climate change, and support ground segment of our outer space research.
Economically, fish industry is important, and evaluation of mineral and hydrocarbon potential in the Antarctic. So as excellence in research to maintain high image of the country globally.