Leo TeeneyCredit: Leo Teeney
Leo Teeney

Interview

Leo Teeney

Young Graduate Trainee at the ESA European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.


Leo works on projects investigating in-space energy storage and potential ISRU applications for radiation protection on the Moon, as well as in-situ construction and future mission scenarios. He received a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Manchester, UK, in 2013 and a Master’s in Space Studies from the International Space University, France, in 2014.

During his studies he worked in the Airbus UK Future Projects Office and for Atkins Aerospace, and for the Team Hakuto Google Lunar XPrize rover at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.

Leo has worked on numerous space mission concept studies including the University of Stuttgart Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme Space Station Design Workshop, in 2015, and is a past winner of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Undergraduate Individual Design Competition for his project “Low-cost Access to Space Booster Aircraft”.


Favourite things:

Film: Looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars film!

Quote: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’

Hobbies: Learning languages (right now German), playing violin, and cycling

What does the ESA YGT and your role involve?

The YGT is a one-year training programme for high calibre graduates from ESA member states. Graduates are paired with a tutor and team within ESA and are able to work on exciting projects alongside European scientists and engineers, and after the programme can take their newly found expertise into industry or academia. At EAC I work in the ‘Spaceship EAC’ team where we are working to identify, research and enable future human exploration technologies.My major task is to support the objectives of the Spaceship EAC team, however I have a very varied range of specific tasks day-to-day. This includes tasks ranging from mentoring interns in the team, to attending industry or academic meetings or presentations, to preparing reports and supporting audits in my additional role as one of EAC’s Environmental Management System coordinators. Every day has been interesting, and my work has been challenging. A YGT is really what you make of it and I have had an amazing time so far with many achievements – very possible within ESA!

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy working at EAC for many reasons, from the work I do, to the place I do it, to the people I work with. One of thing I enjoy in particular is the international environment, where it has become normal to hear four (or more) languages every day, it’s like stepping out of Germany and into a new international area. The most enjoyable part however is simply the work we are doing in the Spaceship EAC team, and being able to contribute to the development of technologies and plans for future missions to the Moon and other destinations is perfect.

When did you become interested in space/the space industry?

I’ve been interested in space for as long as I can remember, but I only started to take seriously the possibility of having a career in the industry in my second year at the University of Manchester, when I was selected for the Alpbach Summer School and worked with students and experts from all over Europe on a space mission definition study – it really inspired me! It set a series of events in motion that has led me now to work at the EAC, and who knows where next. 

How did you get your job? Was it easy?

I got my YGT position after unsuccessfully applying in previous years. I didn’t let it discourage me and built my experience and skills with internships, projects, further study in France and Japan before applying again, and my persistence paid off.

How did you decide which aspect of the space industry to work in?

My goal for a long time has been to work in the human spaceflight field, due to the multidisciplinary nature of the work combining humans and machines, to contribute to future human exploration of space, and its capacity to inspire, bring nations together, and to go further than before. It is a good time to enter the field with exciting plans for future destinations, working with international partners. I do have a wide educational background and more broadly I really enjoy early phase studies, future projects work, and research.

What advice would you give to people looking for a job in your industry?

I would say that the space field is a very competitive field to get into, with a lot of talented people going for relatively few positions. It is important to not only excel academically but to have other experience to set yourself apart from others – for example internships, special projects, leadership roles, international experience. Don’t get too discouraged if you get rejections, and keep improving!

What is the most exciting space thing you’ve seen or heard about?

At EAC I’ve had the honour to witness the hard work behind the scenes preparing for and operating missions on the ISS. As well as this, I’m always excited by my work and exposure to future human exploration mission plans. The most exciting thing, though, coming from the UK, is to see the increasing involvement of the UK in the human spaceflight domain and for Tim Peake to launch as the first British ESA astronaut!

Author

Portia Bowman

Portia works at Thales Alenia Space UK is a graduate of the University of Leicester (Space Exploration Systems MSc (SEEDS) and Physics with Astrophysics BSc).

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