European Lunar Symposium 2024 To Be Held in Dumfries

Scotland’s Dumfries and Galloway region is preparing to welcome over 150 members of the international lunar science and exploration community in June 2024 for the annual European Lunar Symposium (ELS), hosted by The Open University on Scotland. 

Some of the world’s most prominent lunar scientists will be in attendance, exchanging ideas and discussing the latest findings from their research in lunar exploration. High-profile speakers will include representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA).

Professor Mahesh Anand, Professor of Planetary Science and Exploration at The Open University (OU) has co-chaired the symposium held at various locations across Europe since its inception in 2012, but this is the first time it will be held in Scotland. The event is the premier Moon-focussed meeting in Europe attracting experts from across the world to discuss the latest developments in science and exploration of the Moon. It is a partnership between NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) and its European nodes.

The week-long event will take place from Sunday 16 – Friday 21 June at The Crichton, a parkland and business estate located on the outskirts of Dumfries.

As well as the scientific plenary sessions of the symposium itself, the event will include a programme for schools and public talks aimed at inspiring the people of Dumfries and Galloway and leaving behind a new lunar legacy for the region.

Professor Mahesh Anand said: “As well as bringing colleagues from across the world to this beautiful part of the country, I am also keen to influence younger generations and encourage them to believe that they too can make a big difference in lunar exploration – and that they don’t need to go to the Moon to do it!  There needs to be a legacy from this event and by inspiring young people to get involved in the space economy, I feel confident that these young people will go on to pursue their interests and make a significant impact in the future that will be of benefit to the wider society.”

The schools programme will include design sessions and writing competitions for pupils in the run-up to the June event, as well as lunar-themed workshops, run by OU academics and NASA representatives, and a career talk from the members of space industry on Wednesday 19 June at The Crichton.

Dr Fujimoto Masaki, Deputy Director General of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will give a public talk about Japan’s Moon landing in January of this year, along with other speakers involved in recent and upcoming lunar missions, at a public event on the evening of the summer solstice, Thursday 20 June.

The Open University in Scotland’s bid to bring the 12th edition of ELS to Dumfries and Galloway was successful and had been inspired by Professor Anand’s first visit to the region in 2020.  Both the OU in Scotland’s existing relationship with partners in South of Scotland and the region’s strong association with Neil Armstrong (the first man to walk on the Moon) were part of the decision to host the ELS 2024 in Dumfries and Galloway – the seat of the Clan Armstrong where people lined the streets when Neil Armstrong spoke there at Langholm Town Hall in 1972.

With this symposium organisers hope to bring that sense of wonder and excitement about the moon back to the region.
Professor Anand said: “It is a real privilege to be hosting ELS 2024 in the South of Scotland and to acknowledge Dumfries and Galloway’s existing connection with the Moon and lunar exploration. Everyone here is so proud of Neil Armstrong and the fact that he referred to the ‘Muckle Toon’ (Langholm) as home.  I know that many ELS delegates are looking forward to hearing stories from the locals about their experience of Neil Armstrong’s visit to the region in 1972 and learning more about the local area.”

Moreover, the sparsely populated and therefore hardly light polluted Galloway region is also known to have one of the darkest skies in Europe, making it an ideal place for stargazing. In 2009 Galloway Forest Park became the first area in Britain to be designated a ‘Dark Sky Park’ by the International Dark Sky Association, recognising its special status.

A local organising committee made up of local partners and stakeholders including the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, The Crichton Trust, The Crichton Foundation, The Crawick Multiverse Trust and South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) have been supporting colleagues from The Open University to plan and deliver the ELS.

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), the development agency for southern Scotland covering the council areas of Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, said: “This is a fantastic accolade for Dumfries & Galloway to host the European Lunar Symposium and it is making use of the excellent facilities on offer at the Crichton Estate.
“The region does not only have a proud role in the history of moon and lunar exploration, but the area also has the Kirkcudbright Dark Skies Planetarium as well as the Galloway International Dark Sky Park. The space sector presents the South of Scotland with numerous opportunities, and SOSE will be soon revealing plans on how we can blend the region’s significant traditional strengths with new space services and technologies.”
Gwilym Gibbons, Chief Executive of The Crichton Trust, said:  “We are proud to host such a significant international gathering here in The Crichton and in Scotland for the very first time. To have so many significant academics and institutions from across the globe, along with the accompanying programme of community engagement, makes this a truly world-class event to celebrate”.

The programme of events is available via the OU in Scotland website Upcoming Events | Open University in Scotland