Questions about applying? Hear NASA sponsors and school mentors discuss the program and answer questions during an online info session held on April 7, 2020. › Listen to the recording on WebEx (or view mp4)


Update – April 6, 2020:

  • The deadline for applications for the Planetary Science Summer School is April 13, 2020. The deadline for the Heliophysics Mission Design School Pilot has been extended until April 27, 2020. We welcome applications from all interested and eligible applicants.
  • We have added additional detail regarding from whom the letter of recommendation may come.
  • There are some additional special conditions for applicants to the Heliophysics Mission Design School: 1) applicants may have up to 9-10 years experience beyond their Ph.D., and 2) the letter of recommendation must include a statement from its author that the applicant will be supported to make a commitment to fully attend and participate in the entire length of the session.

As conditions evolve regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, we are monitoring official recommendations and practices, along with JPL policy, and developing plans to accommodate potential conditions that may be present during the scheduled time of the week of travel to JPL for each session. Any impacts will be communicated to the applicants.


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. Experiences are focused on two distinct content areas: the Planetary Science Summer School focuses on planetary exploration, and the Heliophysics Mission Design School, a new pilot experience, focuses on heliophysics-science missions. See dates for each in the details section below.

Each session begins with 10 to 11 weeks of online preparatory sessions roughly equivalent to the workload of a rigorous, 3-hour graduate course. 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 culminating week is hosted onsite at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calfornia, 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”.

Eligibility:

  • Doctoral candidates, recent Ph.D.s (Heliophysics Mission Design School applicants may be up to 10 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.) Participants cannot be employed by or attending a foreign institution. 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 and evening sessions) during the culminating week at JPL.

Details:

Session Dates:

Planetary Science Summer School 2020 - Session 1

  • Preparatory Sessions: May 18 - July 17
  • Culminating Week at JPL: July 20-24

Planetary Science Summer School 2020 - Session 2

  • Preparatory Sessions: May 18 - July 31
  • Culminating Week at JPL: August 3-7

Heliophysics Mission Design School 2020 – Session 1

  • Preparatory Sessions: June 22 - August 28
  • Culminating Week at JPL: August 31 - September 4

Heliophysics Mission Design School 2020 – Session 2

  • Preparatory Sessions: September 7 - November 6
  • Culminating Week at JPL: November 9-13

How to Apply:

Click the "Apply Now" button below to fill out the online application. Apply to the Mission Design School that best fits your career interests and experience. If you are cross-disciplinary and/or in an engineering field, you may apply to one or both.

You will need:

A statement of interest and applicability that demonstrates:

  1. A clear intention to do future NASA sponsored work, with details on envisioned contributions, supported by prior interest through a clear progression of experiences.
  2. An understanding of the Science Mission Design School experience to which you are applying (Planetary Science Summer School, or Heliophysics Mission Design School) and its value to your educational, research and career goals, providing several concrete examples of how you will benefit.
  3. Experiences that provide clear evidence of your drive, commitment and/or readiness for mission-design experiences, as well as an explanation of any barriers to attaining such experiences.
  4. Commitment to a career and leadership in research/exploration in planetary science (for PSSS) or heliophysics (for HMDS) or related science or engineering field of interest to NASA, and clear articulation of your skills that contribute to their current work and future leadership endeavors in the field.

A graduate advisor, postdoc supervisor, university department head, branch chief or similar individual must provide a signed letter of recommendation* on letterhead that, at a minimum, addresses:

  1. The applicant’s likelihood of a future career and leadership doing NASA work in fields appropriate to the content of the chosen school (planetary science for PSSS, heliophysics for HMDS, or mission engineering fields of interest to NASA).
  2. How the chosen Science Mission Design School will benefit the applicant.
  3. What characteristics the applicant possesses that make them suitable to the Science Mission Design School.

Note: Letters of recommendation for applicants to the Heliophysics Mission Design School must include a statement from the author that the applicant will be supported to commit to fully attend and participate in the entire length of the session.

*Ensure your advisor provides a letter of recommendation to Joyce.E.Armijo@jpl.nasa.gov by the deadline.

Planetary Science Summer School

2020 Application Deadline: Monday, April 13, 2020

Apply Now

Notice of Acceptance: By May 4

Heliophysics Mission Design School

2020 Application Deadline: Monday, April 27, 2020

Apply Now

Notice of Acceptance: By May 18

Contact Info:

Program Manager:
Leslie Lowes
Leslie.L.Lowes@jpl.nasa.gov
(818) 393-7734

Program Support:
Joyce Armijo
Joyce.E.Armijo@jpl.nasa.gov
(818) 354-2337