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3rd AbGradE Workshop, Orléans, September 2019

The most recent AbGradE Workshop took place in September 2019, immediately before the EANA annual meeting in Orléans. With 25 participants, it was the largest workshop held thus far. Focussed on the theme of planning space missions, we were treated to keynote presentations by our two mentors, Jean-Pierre Lebreton (LPC2E, Orléans) and Michel Viso (CNES, Paris). Dr Lebreton, mission manager of the Huygens probe that landed on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005, gave an in-depth account of the Cassini-Huygens mission, its findings, and the ongoing work using its data. Dr Viso gave an insight into the multitude of stages of planning involved in space missions, with a focus on the importance of planetary protection for astrobiology. The second part of the workshop was oriented around participant-led design of a mission of astrobiological relevance, guided by our two mentors.
Mission proposals discussed in the closing session included assessing the habitability of Enceladus' ocean, new frontiers for astrobiology on Venus, and the challenges of minimal agriculture on Mars. The workshop was a valuable opportunity to highlight the many difficulties to be overcome in the successful design and execution of space missions, and greatly benefitted from the advice and guidance of our mentors, who have themselves been involved in a number of missions to various Solar System bodies.
Outside of the meeting room, we enjoyed the ever-present sightseeing tour and an icebreaker event on the banks of the beautiful river Loire.