Follow this link to skip to the main content
Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA California Institute of Technology
NASA Header    + View the NASA Portal
JPL Home Earth Solar System Stars & Galaxies Science & Technology
Planetary Science Summer School -- The Mission Lifecycle Process
spacer spacer spacer spacer
spacer Home spacer
spacer Application Form  Application Form spacer

NASA's 26th Annual Planetary Science Summer School

Session I: June 16-20, 2014
Session II: July 14-18, 2014
Session III/Power Systems: August 11-15, 2014
Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, California

Application Deadline:
April 1, 2014

Notification of Selection:
By April 11, 2014

WHO: This program seeks people who have completed their graduate work and beyond in science and engineering fields, and who have a keen interest in a career in planetary exploration. Preference is given to post-docs, recent PhD's and current doctoral students; applications from masters-level students or faculty members will be considered on a space-available basis.

The 2014 sessions will include planetary exploration missions needing power system trade-offs, including the use of solar electric vs. Multi-mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (MMRTG). "Session III/Power Systems" in August will have a targeted focus on spacecraft power systems - we are targeting applicants for Session III/Power Systems with strong power systems, system engineering, and/or mission analysis background in addition to students with a science background.
Applicants must be living within the U.S. at the time of the application. Preference will be given to U.S. Citizens and U.S. Legal Permanent Residents ("green card" holders). Due to security issues, citizens of U.S. State Department Designated Countries (See link under "ECP Notices" at are not eligible. A Letter of Recommendation from your research advisor is required by April 1, 2014.

PSSS Schedule
WHAT: An intensive one-week team exercise, preceded by several weekly webinars and assignments requiring 3-4 hours per week, to learn the process of developing a robotic mission concept into reality through concurrent engineering. Limited funds are available to provide partial support for travel and lodging.

The trainees will participate in a team activity to develop an early mission concept study, working with JPL's Advanced Projects Design Team ("Team X") and other concurrent engineering teams. Using JPL's Project Design Center, trainees will assume roles including principal investigator, project manager, and mission and system designers. They will be mentored and assisted by Team X members. The student teams will carry out the equivalent of a mission concept study responsive to a typical NASA Science Mission Directorate Announcement of Opportunity, prepare a presentation for a proposal authorization review, present it to a review board, and receive feedback. Student teams will select the mission concept topic from Screenshot of videooptions presented by the course sponsors, based on high-priority missions as defined by the science community. Prior to the week-long session, a series of reading assignments and webinars will help trainees develop a good understanding of top-level science requirements and instrument priorities in advance. Video: Follow the experience of a 2011 group in designing a mission to Trojan Asteroids

  • Session I: June 16-20, 2014 (18 participants)
  • Session II: July 14-18, 2014 (18 participants)
  • Session III/Power Systems: August 11-15, 2014 (18 participants – special focus on power systems)
Note: Required weekly preparatory webinars begin the week of April 21, 2014.
WHERE: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

WHY: To prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers to participate in future missions of solar system exploration.
"Students should get a crash course in what has taken me a career to learn about missions."
--Prof. James W. Head III, Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI
"This is such a great contribution to the future of our field - you are impacting the careers of many new leaders."
--Prof. Richard P. Binzel. Program Chair in Planetary Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and 2007-08 Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences, American Astronomical Society

By the completion of the session, students will have a clearer understanding of the mission design relationships among science instruments, cost, and schedule, and the trade-offs necessary to stay within cost and schedule while preserving the opportunity to acquire high-quality science. They will also understand the lifecycle of a robotic space mission.

HOW: Applications are to be submitted electronically by April 1, 2014.
  1. Successful applicants will be post-docs, recent PhDs, or doctoral students in science or engineering with a strong interest in a career in planetary exploration. Faculty members or masters-level students may be considered on a space-available basis.
  2. Applicants must be living within the U.S. at the time of the application.
  3. Provide a short (one to two paragraphs) statement of
    a) how the summer school relates to your education, research, and career plans,
    b) how you will benefit from attending the session
  4. Faculty advisor or current supervisor must provide a signed letter of recommendation on letterhead.
All applicants will be notified of their status by April 11, 2014. Successful applicants will be required to participate in several group webinars in the weeks prior to the summer school. The webinars will help you identify and understand the science objectives for your mission and to develop the instrument concept.

Logistics: Detailed logistical information will be provided to successful applicants.

There is no registration fee. Partial financial support is available to a limited number of individuals to help defray the expense of travel and lodging only.
To qualify for financial support you must
(a) Be selected to participate in the summer school,
(b) Live within the United States at the time you file your application, and
(c) Request financial support in your application.
Civil servants, JPL employees, Caltech students and employees, and individuals living outside the United States are not eligible for financial support.

Participants must initially incur all expenses and will be reimbursed 6 to 8 weeks after a participant's travel expense report is received at JPL. A travel report form must be completed after the participant returns to their point of origin, and must include the original hotel and transportation receipts. Copies of receipts are not acceptable. Rental car expenses will be approved on a case-by-case basis. When processed by JPL's travel auditing department, checks will be issued to reimburse the individual for 80% of expenses up to a maximum of $1000 per person. It is JPL policy to mail reimbursement checks to home addresses only and not to institutions. Allow 6 to 8 weeks after the travel reports are received at JPL to receive reimbursement checks.
If you have questions about the summer school, please contact:

Implementation Lead:
Ms. Leslie Lowes
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 111-B29
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, Ca. 91109
818-393-7734 voice
818-354-7586 fax
Ms. Anita Sohus
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 111-B29
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
818-354-6613 (Voice)
818-354-7586 (Fax)

Click here to complete the Application Form. Be prepared to describe how your research/thesis topic relates to PSSS and the benefits to you for participating.

You will also need to have your advisor send us a signed letter of recommendation

FIRST GOV + JPL Privacy Statement NASA Home Page
Outreach Manager:  Anita Sohus
Webmaster:  Maryia Davis