Dr. Mona Kessel - Deputy Program Scientist for LWS, Program Scientist for Cluster and Geotail
Dr. Kessel has developed a broad range of research interests that cross traditional discipline boundaries. Her work includes studies in many areas of heliophysics: interplanetary shocks, comets, and Sun-Earth connections spanning bow shock, magnetopause, and inner magnetosphere dynamics, and including reconnection, plasma entry, and space and ground-based ULF waves. Born and educated in Kansas, Dr. Kessel received her Masters and PhD in Physics from the University of Kansas. She then spent 4 years as a Post-doc at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in England, before moving to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 1991. She transferred to NASA HQ in 2006.
Dr. Kessel is the Deputy Program Scientist for NASA's initiative called "Living With a Star" (LWS) which focuses on understanding and ultimately predicting solar variability and its diverse effects on Earth, human technology and astronauts in space. The systems science behind this new kind of weather outside of Earth's terrestrial atmosphere is known as "Space Weather". She is responsible for the funding mechanics of the LWS Targeted Research and Technology Program and attends as many Focused Science Team meetings as possible. Dr. Kessel is also the Program Scientist for the Cluster mission a joint ESA-NASA mission investigating the Earth's magnetic environment and its interaction with the solar wind in three dimensions. Science output from Cluster greatly advances our knowledge of space plasma physics, space weather and the Sun-Earth connection and has been key in improving the modeling of the magnetosphere and understanding its various physical processes. Dr. Kessel is the Program Scientist for the Geotail mission a collaborative project between ISAS/JAXA and NASA. After fulfilling its original objective of studying the dynamics of the Earth's magnetotail over a wide range of distance, extending from the near-Earth region (8 Earth radii (Re) from the Earth) to the distant tail (about 200 Re) its orbit was changed. Since February 1995 Geotail has been in an elliptical 9 by 30 Re orbit where it has provided data on most aspects of the solar wind interaction with the magnetosphere.
In the late 1990’s Dr. Kessel joined the Women of NASA through the NASA quest program. She took part in web chat sessions with students and other outreach activities. A bio from that time is still on-line here, and although some of it is dated (like the age of her daughters!) the description of how she got interested in the field of space science remains valid.
On a personal note, after a few years of standing on the sidelines cheering for her daughter at bike races, Mona joined the Artemis team and started racing herself. Artemis is dedicated to promoting women in competitive cycling, helps develop junior racers, and recently added elite men’s and women’s squads!