Internship at EAC: Catalogue development of planetary minerals for field analytical tools libraries

7 February 2018

The European Astronaut Centre is looking for a dynamic intern to continue the development of a catalogue of planetary minerals for field analytical tools libraries (PANGAEA). This full-time internship is for six months and is based at EAC, near the historic city of Cologne.

Overview of the PANGAEA course

The training program PANGAEA (Planetary ANalogue Geological and Astrobiological Exercise for Astronauts) is designed to provide geological training for astronauts for future missions on the Moon, Mars and Asteroids. The Geologic Training Lessons and the Geological Field Trip intend to convey to the astronauts a basic knowledge about geologic processes and environments on the Earth, the Moon, Mars and asteroids, as well to develop the crew’s observational and decisional skills in identifying prominent geological features on field, conducting efficient sampling and report correctly to the ground the observations gathered during the field activity. The training involve also test of technological tools for sampling and scientific analysis on field and also the development of operation concepts for geological field activities.

Background

Geology and geo-microbiology research is a primary scientific goal in current satellite and rover missions to Mars, Moon and asteroids, and these disciplines will have an even greater importance in future manned planetary exploration.

In the coming years, European astronauts could be involved in the definition of unmanned missions with geologic purposes, therefore a basic knowledge about general geology and planetary geology is a fundamental element in their background. For astronauts, knowledge of the Earth geology represents the first step to understand the specificities of other planetary bodies, and has a strong relationship with the tasks of Earth observation currently performed from the ISS.

The following involvement of astronauts in manned missions with geological and geo-microbiological sampling purposes will bring several advantages compared to robotic/rover exploration: humans can gather more data from the surrounding environment and are more flexible in both analysing and implementing follow-up actions, greatly enhancing the scientific output of the exploration activities. With specific preparation, and the help of portable analytical tools, astronauts will be able to identify features and samples, collect them and perform on-site analyses, shortening the decision-making process and producing much more specific and detailed documentation. Astronauts will be assisted in their strategic choices by analytical portable tools (VNir, Raman, XRF, etc.) that will allow fast mineralogical and elemental analysis of the samples. These instrument will need to be equipped with libraries making explicit and readable the scientific information gathered to allow decision making and flexecution to be applied by the astronauts, even without support of the scientists from the ground control.

 

Overview of the tasks proposed in this internship

During PANGAEA astronauts make use of analytical portable tools to recognize minerals of interest to evaluate the scientific relevance of potential samples. Those instruments are mainly bases on spectroscopy (like VNir and Raman) and x-ray fluorescence or diffractometry. These instruments can be equipped with libraries that associate to the obtained data the related - most probable - mineral phases, in order to provide a user friendly – not specialist – read of the outputs. However, in most case those libraries are limited and do not include mineral species that could be of great interest on the surface of other planets.

The main task of the internship is to coordinate continue the evaluation of portable tools with a focus not only on VNIR (which has been developed during a previous intership) but also on Raman, XRD, XRF and LIBS. This will include collecting spectra from mineral collections and museums, and maintaining a catalogue of minerals, to evaluate the best instrument for their identification.

Duties

  • Maintaining a list of the most important minerals potentially present on the surface of the Moon and Mars, including components of magmatic rocks, meteorites, impact and weathering products
  • Coordinating the collection of relevant mineral spectra from Museum collections
  • Selecting the best instrument to identify minerals of interest for different spectroscopy methods (VNir, Raman, LIBS, XRF)
  • Integrating acquired data and spectra into a custom library for field portable tools, to be developed in parallel with data collection tools like electronic fieldbooks.

Desired skills & experience 

Applicants must:

  • be enrolled in a Masters course or equivalent post-graduate qualification (preferred subjects are geology, natural sciences, environmental sciences).
  • have attended, during their studies, courses related to planetary geology, astrobiology or planetology.
  • have experience in using the Office Suite, and particularly Word and PowerPoint.

 

Applicants are also required to be:

  • Fluent in English
  • Organised and result-oriented
  • Passionate to work in complex environments

Enthusiasm and the willingness to show initiative are important. Successful applicants will be expected to work as part of a team within a multi-cultural environment.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  • Full-time internship, 5 days per week (40 hours per week)
  • €600 monthly allowance (if the applicant is enrolled as a student and lives more than 50 km from EAC, 300€/month if less than 50 km)
  • The non-resident allowance will also be granted to students with special needs, irrespective of their residency status.
  • Duty station is the European Astronaut Centre outside Cologne, near Cologne-Bonn airport
  • Earliest start date: 15 April 2018
  • You must be a citizen of an ESA member or cooperating state in order to be eligible

More information and the application form can be found here

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 2 March 2018.

How to apply:

Interested? If so, please send to esa.caves@esa.int your:

  1.  Curriculum Vitae
  2. Letter of Motivation
  3. ESA application form

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