Position available – Research Fellow in Planetary Science

Project: Scientific integration and exploitation of ExoMars PanCam, ISEM and CLUPI (36 months)

Dept. Earth and Environmental Sciences (University of St Andrews) and Dept. Physics (Aberystwyth University)

The European Space Agency “ExoMars” programme comprises a Trace Gas Orbiter, which launched successfully this year, and a surface robotic rover due to launch in 2020. This ExoMars rover will explore past habitable environments on Mars, and will drill 2 meters into the crust to search for evidence of microbial life preserved in the rock record. A fundamental aspect of this mission is the surface characterisation of martian geology along the rover traverse. The three surface remote sensing instruments on the rover are the Panoramic Camera (stereo, colour, high resolution and multispectral imaging), the Close-Up Imager (‘CLUPI’ – macro to microscopic colour imaging) and the Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (‘ISEM’). Combined data from these instruments will enable mission scientists to establish the geological history of the area and identify which outcrops are most likely to harbour organic biosignatures.

This project, funded by the UK Space Agency, will help to ensure these instruments are scientifically integrated effectively and cross-calibrated to maximise the scientific return from the ExoMars mission. Emulator instruments will be deployed at Mars-analogue terrains in Iceland, Atacama Desert (Chile), and the Pilbara (Australia) to generate datasets that will feed into the development of analytical software toolkits to be made available to the community, as well as form scientific studies in their own right. This 3 year project will achieve the following: (1) development of instrument emulators; (2) mars analogue field deployments to acquire representative PanCam, CLUPI, and ISEM datasets; (3) cross-calibration and development of software tools to analyse instrument data; (4) investigation into the scientific capabilities of the combined ExoMars remote sensing instrument suite; and (5) production of reference datasets with which to calibrate and interpret data returned from ExoMars.

We are looking to appoint an individual with a remote sensing or planetary science background who has experience with ENVI software or hyperspectral imaging for geological research. Candidates will ideally have knowledge of Martian geology and exploration. Fieldwork experience would also be highly advantageous. The position is split joint between the University of St Andrews and Aberystwyth University, plus collaboration with the ExoMars instrument teams across Europe including the project co-investigators Mark Claire (St. Andrews) and Andrew Coates (UCL, PanCam PI). This work is closely aligned with a sister project led by Imperial College London (PanCam 3D data exploitation), with which there will be ongoing collaboration. This position is a unique opportunity to become involved in the core scientific and technical development of the ExoMars rover mission, leaving the candidate well-placed to participate in ExoMars itself, and also future missions to Mars.