The Hassan II University of Casablanca has now made official its commitment to support the development of Planetary and Space Sciences in Africa. The Hassan II University, and particularly the GAIA Laboratory (Géosciences appliquées à l’ingénierie de l’aménagement), run by the Prof. Hasnaa Chennaoui-Aoudjehane, has been active in the studies of meteorites and impact craters in Morocco since many years. The members of this laboratory make also very regular actions for the promotion of planetary sciences to the public, such as conferences, talks in the media and articles in popular science journals (e.g., recent article about a unique impact structure in Morocco, “What a Moroccan crater reveals about a rare double whammy from the skies“, in The Conversation – Africa). The Hassan II university is also at the origin of the introduction of dedicated curricula in Planetary sciences in the national scale.
The Moroccan researchers also publish regularly scientific articles on impact craters and meteorites. As a result, when a piece of Mars fall in Morocco in July 2011, the analyses of the meteoritic fragment were achieved through a international consortium lead by the Hassan II University of Casablanca. The results of the analyses, providing a fresh look into surface and interior processes on Mars, were eventually published in Science. This international cooperation was cited as a model of scientific partnership in Africa in the journal Nature Index.
Several workshops and international scientific events in the domain of planetary sciences and meteoritics have been hosted by the University Hassan II, including the 77th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society.
Though the implication of its researchers, the Hassan II University has contributed to the first steps of the Africa Initiative for Planetary and Space Sciences. Following these early contributions, the value of this Institutional support is appreciated by all the other partners of the initiative. Together with other African Universities, this endorsement marks the desire to engage collectively in scientific fields that are still unexplored in many African universities.