MSL Personnel, Institutions and Support

The Science Team of the MSL Mission consists of the Instrument Principal Investigators, Program Scientists and Deputies, Investigation Scientists, Participating Scientists, Collaborators and Co-Investigators. The Science Team’s ‘Rules of the Road’ Document includes the principles, ground rules and operation policies that will control the project’s approach to mission management, operations and analyses as well as data processing, sharing, publication and authorship privileges.

The Project Science Group is led by the Project Scientist and the Program Scientists and includes the Instrument PIs as its members. Its main function is to advise the the project on optimization techniques in order to maximize science data turnout. Also, it convenes to sort out science issues and other problems related to science activities. It provides strategic guidance to SOWG.

Project Science Group Members
Source: NASA JPL
Source: NASA JPL

Team Structure
These main groups form the flight team that is in control of the mission: Management, Integrated Planning and Execution, Mission Design and Navigation, Real Time Operations, Engineering Operations and Science Operations. The Science operations Portion of the Team consists of the Science Operations Working Group which is comprised of the Instrument Principal Investigators, Co-Investigators, Collaborators, Participating Scientists, Project Scientists and other science operations personnel. It is responsible for science data analysis, distribution and archiving, development of the tactical activity plan, instrument sequencing, instrument monitoring, strategic science planning, support of Education&Public Outreach Campaigns and timely publication of science results.
Tactical Science Operations
The process of generating and prioritizing rover and instrument science activities in support of rover operations and science operations will be handled by the Science Theme Groups (STGs) and the Science Operations Working Group (SOWG). Each STG consists of team members involved in multiple instruments, working together to analyze science results and to prepare science activity plans that address the science objectives of the instrument and or group. SOWG meetings feature presentations of the plans that each STG has drafted for their instruments.
Science Theme Groups
  • Organic Geochemistry ad Biosignatures


  1. Determine chemical and isotopic composition of organic constituents in solid and gas samples and/or other elements of relevance for habitability.
  2. Finding textural, chemical, mineralogical and isotopic biosignatures.
  • Inorganic Geochemistry and Mineralogy


  1. Chemical, mineralogical and isotopic studies of rocks and soil samples
  • Geology


  1. Investigate Bedrock geology, geomorohology and stratigraphy
  2. Study rock and soil textures
  3. Determine Rock and soil physical properties
  • Atmosphere and Environment


  1. Study the Martian Meteorology and Climate
  2. Analyze the distribution and dynamics of water and dust
  3. Examine solar, UV and high energy radiation
  4. Determine atmospheric chemical and isotopic composition

Tactical Science Team Positions

SOWG Chair:
–         Leads the science team in all meetings
–         Receives Updates from the Mission Manager and Tactical Uplink Lead
–         Leads the science team to a consensus during daily science team meetings
–         Makes educated decisions when no consensus is reached
–         Follows the Uplink Process

Science Uplink Representative:
–         Takes over for SOWG during 16-hour operations
–         Documents Changes to the science plan
–         Follows the Uplink process and notes modifications to commands and sequences required due to mission event changes

SOWG Documentarian:
–         Records discussions involving SOWG
–         Documents the justification of tactical science decisions and plans
–         Follows the Uplink process and note any changes that occur during it

Long Term Planner:
–         Presents current rover status, activities, reviews and a sol path illustrating the near future to the science tam
–         Verifies that the tactical plan is in line with strategical plans

Science Theme Lead:
–         Represents a STG in the Science Meetings
–         Advocates observations desired by the STG
–         Builds the STG Plan in the MSL Operations Interface with assistance of STG Members
–         Documents processes inside the STG
–         Broadcasts to Members

Science Team Member:
–         Analyzes critical science data
–         Develops and test hypotheses
–         Supports the STGs representation in science meetings
–         Works on science observation requests with STL on the current sol

Payload Downlink Lead:
–         Verifies and monitors payload condition
–         Checks all received data products and verifies their accuracy
–         Reports data and statuses as well as instrument related recommendations to SOWG
–         Recommends instrument performance diagnosis activities to SOWG for integration into science plans
–         Documents information, assessments
–         Prepares Quick-Look-Data-Products
–         Develops preliminary data products

Payload Uplink Lead:
–         Creates, validates and delivers instrument sequences and commands
–         Takes directions from SOWG to verify modified sequences are consistent with original intent
–         Provides Instrument advice
–         Verifies the activity plan and reports any changes necessary due to operational constraints


Tactical Science Meetings

Science Kickoff Meeting:
–         SOWG Chair leads the meeting
–         Long Term Planner Report, Rover Health Report, Instrument Status Updates
–         Poll of highest priority science observations of each STL for the sol
–         Target decisions
–         Recommendations to Sequence/Command creators

Science and Engineering Tag-Up:
–         Prior to SOWG Meeting
–         Engineering Leads and SOWG Chair
–         Downlink Lead alerts Uplink Lead of any engineering requests for the sol
–         Rover limitations/restrictions for the upcoming sol are discussed

SOWG Meeting:
–         Main tactical meeting
–         SOWG Chair in the lead
–         Rover Status Updates are received
–         Instrument Updates
–         Rover Planners discuss targets
–         Tactical activity plan is drafted and modified based on rover capabilities
–         STLs provide feedback for the current sol
–         Sequencing team advises all parties and develops initial planning steps
–         Plan is documented and passed on

Strategical Science Team Positions

SOWG Chair:
–         Works with tactical Uplink Lead and Science planners to develop the plan for the next sol
–         Provides link between long term planning and short term operations controlling the basic steps that are taken and looking at decisions

Long Term Planner:
–        Leads science discussions working on hypotheses for recent results and overall mission science turnout
–         Checks with STLs individually on progress made
–         Receives strategic inputs from STLs
–         Provides the strategical link between the different STLs
–         Keeps Big-Picture-Science-Objectives in mind and plans accordingly
–         Updates the strategic plan regularly
–         Presents the Plan to SOWG for Feedback
–         Discusses strategic science goals and sequences
–         Discusses details of current plans
–         Participates in Edu&PO Activities

Science Team Lead
–         Coordinates and leads the STL
–         Responsible for STL Sol Planning
–         Provides the link to STL Long Term Plans
–         Relays STL Information needed for strategic planning
–         Participates in Edu&PO Activities

Science Theme Group Member:
–         Analyzes Data products
–         Participates in Science Discussions and coordinates with LTP
–         Supports the validation process for science data for the Planetary Data System
–         Creates reports for weekly outreach events
–         Develops Quick Release Results
–         Provides detailed science summaries
–         Participates in Press Conferences and other PAO Activities
–         Publishes in scientific journals
–         Supports Long Term Science Planning

PI Instrument Specific:
–         Oversees the operation of a particular instrument
–         Point of contact for certain instrument related questions and issues
–         Verifies the quality of science measurements
–         Allows the science team to fully address science objectives of the mission
–         Supports strategic planning
–         Provides the link to LTP for instrument related restrictions and information
–         Discusses science goals and operations concerned with instruments
–         Participates in Edu/PO and Press Events, other PAO related activities
–         Ensures Instrument Team’s Participation in SOWG Meetings

Payload Element Lead – Instrument Specific:
–         Assists the Instrument PI in meeting responsibilities
–         Coordinates instrument operation times and requested windows
–         Is on call for instrument issues
–         Verifies high level data products are generated
–         Shares mission data
–         Ensures PDS archiving
–         Meets schedule requirements

Payload Downlink Lead – instrument Specific:
–         Processes and calibrates data products
–         Makes data available to science team
–         Assesses instrument performance on a long term basis

Payload Uplink Lead – Instrument Specific:
–         Supports long term sequencing of instruments
–         Suggests Updates to the activity dictionary

Strategic Science Meetings

Project Science Group Meeting:
–         Daily or weekly depending on mission phase
–         Discussion of strategic issues
–         Provide staffing and scheduling guidance
–         Schedule Press Events and Releases
–         Provide guidance for LTP and SOWG Chairs

Science Discussion Meeting:
–         LTP in the Lead
–         Science Results are presented
–         Downlink data product prioritization is agreed on
–         Strategic plans are developed and discussed
–         Daily at the beginning of the mission, later on a ‘as-needed basis’

PI Team Meeting:
–         Discuss instrument strategies, findings and operations
–         Advise the science team

MSL Science Team Meeting:
–         Mission Status
–         Mission Results
–         Mission Strategies (long term)
–         Every 6 Months