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Two intriguing investigations -- One flight-proven spacecraft

Sébastien Besse

Sébastien Besse

Research Associate, U. Maryland

Sébastien Besse

What's the coolest thing about EPOXI?
The Deep Impact mission was such a success that we have decided to continue the journey of the spacecraft to other small bodies! That is pretty amazing because we will have the opportunity to observe a new comet nucleus. EPOXI also looked at planets around others stars, which was a unique opportunity to link different science objectives in one mission!

Why do you like working at the University of Maryland?
The University of Maryland has allowed me to conduct my research and focus 100% of my work time to understanding our Solar System. Furthermore, the University is so large compared to what we have in Europe that you feel everything is made to work in good condition.

What is your job on the EPOXI mission?
I joined the team a long time after the impact [Tempel 1] and will focus on the visible-infrared spectrum to understand the surface composition and evolution. I also have expertise in crater identification and shape modeling that will be used to determine the properties of the next target [Hartley 2].

How did you end up in Space Science?
I studied geology in college, was bored and thought that most of the discoveries had been made. I understand now that that perception was incorrect but it did inspire me to search for new goals by just turning my eyes to the sky. I find it cool, and now I am working on rocky planets and small bodies of the Solar System.

What do you do in your spare time?
Am I supposed to have spare time? I enjoy going out with friends and discovering the USA which is for me a new country. I also spend a lot of time reading and watching Japanese comics. And finally, as often as I can, I go hiking and breath nature.

Who in your life inspired you?
I wanted to make my life as I like, so there was no one particular person. However, the achievements of colleagues are great inspirations for my research.

What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
Coming to the US as a postdoc doesn't count anymore. I've worked primarily with space mission data so I would like to have an opportunity to go observe at one of the major ground-based observatories. And I would like to visit Antarctica!

Were you science-oriented as a young person?
Yes, definitively! I remember I wanted to understand everything about the Earth, its biology, physics, chemistry. I guess science is my religion and I was addicted soon.

What was your favorite book as a young person?
I didn't read much, but I remember the book La nuit des temps from Barjavel. The book is about ancient humans found in Antarctica dated to be older, far older than the first human. I was already interested in science as you can see!

What did you want to become when you were young?
I do not remember. Maybe, as most children do, I wanted to be like my dad who was working with airplanes. I was also interested in geology and finally, unconsciously I have mixed both and sent them to space!

If you weren't working in space exploration now, what might you be doing?
I might have been a geochemist, something closely related to rocks. Or maybe public outreach!

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