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Physics of the Cosmos News

12 August 2022

Call for a US Scientist to serve on ESA’s NewAthena Science Re-definition Team

NASA is soliciting applications and nominations for individuals affiliated with US institutions to participate in a European Space Agency (ESA)-led NewAthena Science Re-definition Team (SRT).

Background: Athena is ESA’s next large X-ray astrophysics mission. ESA, with NASA as a partner, has been formulating the Athena mission since 2014. ESA recently noted that the mission, in its current form, has greater complexity (and associated costs) and therefore has become unaffordable within its science program. ESA wishes to define an affordable, yet ambitious X-ray observatory mission on a similar timeframe as the one originally envisioned for Athena. This revised mission is referred to as NewAthena.

The ESA Director for Science is convening an SRT to support the definition of the science objectives of NewAthena and to provide expert advice during the study activities necessary to define the NewAthena mission concept. In order for NewAthena to fit the clear cost constraints, the mission specifications will likely need to be less ambitious than Athena’s and the SRT will be asked to support the study activities in the necessary trade-offs among performance specifications, etc., with the goal of defining an affordable X-ray mission that would still deliver flagship science. The SRT will be asked to also propose possible new, fresh science goals for the NewAthena mission complementing the original science case for Athena, that might enhance the mission’s scientific output in the face of necessarily reduced mission specifications.

ESA has invited NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to appoint members for the SRT. We anticipate regular remote meetings, and up to two in-person meetings requiring travel to Europe can be assumed. NASA will provide funding for travel to the NewAthena SRT meetings.

With this Dear Colleague Letter NASA seeks to appoint one US science re-definition team member to bring in fresh perspectives for the NewAthena design. Applicants are asked to read the ESA Announcement of the SRT, which includes links for the terms of reference for the SRT and other relevant documents.

Nomination / Application Letters:
Applications and nominations to serve as the NASA-nominated member of the SRT should consist of a single PDF which includes a cover letter, including a statement of expertise pertinent to serving on the SRT, a resume, and a statement of commitment. The cover letter should speak directly to the anticipated criteria for selection listed below. Please also include in the single PDF a one- or two-page resume / curriculum vitae and a brief statement of availability and commitment to serve on the SRT during its ~18 month lifetime. Applications and nominations will be accepted for candidates affiliated with U.S. institutions; there is no citizenship requirement.

Anticipated Criteria for Selection:

  • Expertise pertinent to serving on the SRT and its mission of advising ESA in science perspectives for the newAthena design as detailed in the documents linked above.
  • Ability to bring a diversity of thought and fresh perspectives relative to the legacy Athena mission architecture.
  • Evidence of commitment to creative and implementable solutions for difficult technical challenges.

Applications are due by Tuesday 16 September 2022, at 8p Eastern / 7p Central / 6p Mountain / 5p Pacific. Only email applications of a single PDF file will be accepted. Please submit your application via email to the NASA Athena Program Scientist, Dr. Kartik Sheth at kartik.sheth@nasa.gov. Please also direct any questions to Dr. Sheth by email, or telephone: (202) 573-1060.

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