an Explore Mars Event

May 17-19, 2022

The George Washington University

Washington D.C.


Sanjay Vijendran

ESA | Mars Strategy Team Leader and Future Mars Studies (MarsX Team Coordinator

Mid 2020-present
I have been working with a small but dedicated group of ESA colleagues who have been investigating the merits of space-based solar power for use as a clean energy source to combat climate change and meet Net Zero by 2050 goals. We are trying to get support for establishing a substantial R&D programme in Europe in the coming years to deeply investigate this concept and help decide whether or not such a new and expansive capability should be developed in Europe to serve our future terrestrial energy needs.

May 2020 - present
Following the successful establishment of the Mars Sample Return programme together with NASA and initiation of flight project developments for the European contributions, I have handed over my responsibilities on MSR to new management in May 2020. I have now returned to the role of leading the strategic planning of ESA's future Mars exploration programme as well as coordinating early phase studies of new and exciting Mars missions that could follow Mars Sample Return in the decade of the 2030's as we move ever closer towards the goal of enabling the human exploration of Mars.

January 2016 - May 2020
The programme I was working in at ESA (the future Mars mission preparation programme) moved to a new Directorate called the Human and Robotic Exploration Directorate and I moved along with it to continue my work in preparing for a future ESA Mars exploration mission after the Exomars rover mission. During this time I lead the ESA preparation activities for a new major undertaking together with NASA to return samples from Mars for the first time, a programme called Mars Sample Return (MSR). Our proposal to ESA Member States at the Space19+ Council of Ministers meeting for such a programme was successfully established and funded and MSR is now in development for launch later in the 2020's.

March 2009 - January 2016
I left Imperial College to join the European Space Agency at it's R&D facility near Amsterdam (called ESTEC) in The Netherlands where I worked in the Advanced Studies and Technology Preparation Division in charge of managing the technology developments for ESA's future Mars missions.

April 2006 - February 2009
I joined the NASA Phoenix Mars mission team as a collaborator and contributed some microfabricated silicon surfaces that became part of the microscopy station on the lander and are now on the surface of Mars. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Science Team on Phoenix working at the University of Arizona in Tucson, commanding instruments and doing science on the Red Planet.