Fred Jansen managed the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, leading up to and during the period where it guided a probe into orbit around a comet and dispatched a lander to its surface — both firsts in space exploration. Although the lander Philae could not accomplish its full mission before going into hibernation, the data Rosetta and Philae gathered will immeasurably multiply our knowledge of comets and their contributions to the ingredients of life on Earth.
Following his work on the Rosetta mission, Jansen went on to lead ESA’s Gaia project, a mission which is mapping the position and the movements of stars in our galaxy to an unprecedented precision. As a by-product Gaia is expect to discover and map the orbits of many hitherto unknown solar system objects like asteroids. In addition to this, Jansen continues to oversee ESA’s XMM Newton mission, an orbiting x-ray space observatory delving into the most elusive secrets of the universe, including black holes and dark matter.