Mars Sample Return Project Scientist


Direct Entry Job Permanent Noordwijk, The Netherlands

Uploaded 10 Jun 2020

Job Description

Working in the Science Division in the Science and Operations Department of the Directorate of Science, you will initially be assigned to the post of Mars Sample Return Project Scientist.
The Science Division provides project and study scientist support to missions throughout all mission phases including study, implementation and operations and is responsible for ensuring that maximum scientific return is achieved within the technical and programmatic constraints.

Your primary role will be to lead the scientific preparations in ESA for the Mars Sample Return Campaign. This campaign is under study by ESA and NASA and aims to return about 500g of Mars samples to Earth.

The Mars Sample Return campaign includes:

  • Collection and caching of samples by NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover
  • A NASA-led Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL) mission that would enable retrieval of sample tubes via tube collection by an ESA-provided Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) and delivery to the lander-mounted Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV),
  • Launch of the MAV and injection of the Orbital Sample (OS) container into Mars Orbit,
  • Rendezvous with and capture of the OS by the ESA Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) spacecraft,
  • Return of ERO to the Earth system and release of the Earth Entry Vehicle (EEV),
  • Initial characterisation activities of samples in a bio-contained facility located in the USA,
  • Ongoing allocation and analysis of Mars samples by the science community.

As the Mars Sample Return Project Scientist, you will lead actvities in ESA to define the scientific needs for the campaign, in close consultation with the science community and to track the envisaged scientific performance of the campaign as it is developed. You will also lead ESA involvement in preparing international science management approaches to ensure maximising the science return from the campaign, principally with respect to analysis, curation and distribution of the samples, but also with respect to data of scientific value that may be gathered in situ.

Under the lead of the Science and Research Group (HRE-R), in the directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration you will be responsible for maximizing the science return from the Mars Sample Return Campaign to stakeholders in cooperation with campaign partners.

Reporting to the head of the Science Division, your primary duties will include:

• Leading the science coordination of Mars Sample Return together with science representatives of international partners;
• Leading science definition for Mars Sample Return campaign elements  within ESA including preparing and maintaining the campaign’s scientific requirements in coordination with international partners;
• Providing scientific expertise and support to the development of ESA elements of the Mars Sample Return campaign and associated technology developments and tracking the expected scientific performance;
• Coordinating and chairing meetings and activities associated with campaign science teams, committees and working groups;
• Advising project managers on technical and operational aspects that may affect the ability of the campaign to meet science objectives;
• Providing scientific input and guidance to the execution of mission operations including operations planning for landed elements, calibration, sample analysis procedures, and data product deliveries;
• Representing the interests of the Mars Sample Return scientific community, organising activities related to their participation in the campaign;
• Preparing reports for presentation internally and externally, including to the ESA advisory structure;
• Providing support to other ESA studies or projects linked to planetary science;
• Actively pursuing personal scientific research, participating in research activities;
• Supporting ESA outreach, communication and education activities in planetary and space science and exploration, promoting ESA’s activities and scientific results to a variety of audiences, including the general public.

Person Specification

Technical competencies:
Knowledge of the current status of Mars science and a good understanding of the next steps in the field
Knowledge of scientific management of samples, including curation and facility requirements
Experience of the organisation of international scientific projects or campaigns
Experience in managing technical and scientific teams
Research/publication record

Behavioural competencies
Relationship Management
Problem Solving

A PhD or equivalent qualification in the Earth, planetary sciences, or a closely related discipline is required.