NASA Science Mission Design Schools are 3-month-long career development experiences for doctoral students, recent Ph.D.s, postdocs and junior faculty who have a strong interest in science-driven robotic space exploration missions. Participants learn the process of developing a hypothesis-driven robotic space mission in a concurrent engineering environment while getting an in-depth, first-hand look at mission design, life cycle, costs, schedule and the trade-offs inherent in each.
The Science Mission Design Schools are designed to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers for participation and leadership in space science missions of the future. In 2021, we are offering two sessions of the Planetary Science Summer school, which focus on planetary exploration. See dates for each in the details section below.
Each session begins with 10 to 11 weeks of online preparatory sessions (two per week) plus group and individual worktime. During this time, participants act as a mission science team – assuming principal investigator and science team roles - and select their mission and science goals from options based on those defined as high priority by the scientific community. Guided by mentors, they begin the development of an early mission concept study in response to a recent NASA Science Mission Directorate announcement of opportunity, including mission-science hypotheses, science traceability, instrumentation suites and data sufficiency requirements.
The full-time culminating week is typically hosted onsite at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where participants finalize their mission concept design and present it to a review board of NASA Headquarters and NASA center experts. Participants assume engineering roles, such as project manager and systems and subsystem engineers and work alongside mentors from JPL’s Advance Projects Design Team, or “Team X”.
- Doctoral candidates, recent Ph.D.s (up to three years beyond their Ph.D.), postdocs and junior faculty. Masters-level students within six to nine months of graduation and not planning to pursue a Ph.D. will be considered on a space-available basis.
- Open to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents (LPRs) and a limited number of foreign nationals living within the U.S. at the time of application and during the full session. (Preference will be given to U.S. citizens and LPRs. We are restricted to a maximum of two eligible foreign nationals per session.) Participants cannot be employed by or attending a foreign institution nor can they be living abroad. Due to security issues, citizens of U.S. State Department designated countries are not eligible.
- Participants must be available for webinars and work sessions during the preparatory weeks and full time (for both daytime sessions and some evening work) during the culminating week at JPL.
- The Science Mission Design School is roughly equivalent in workload to a rigorous, 3-hour graduate course, requiring an average effort of 9 hours per week. Time commitments vary by week and ramp up significantly over the length of the course. Additionally, pre-course reading and assignments will be required.
- To better prepare your application, please view the program video, and review the learning goals and training objectives.
- There is no registration fee. Limited funds are available to provide partial support for travel and lodging for participants who request it in advance and meet the requirements.
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