Zurich - Thomas Zurbuchen is set to join the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) as Professor of Space Science and Technology. The long-standing NASA research director will head up ETH Zurich Space. With this new initiative, the university is seeking to bring space research to a new level.

Thomas Zurbuchen to head up ETH Zurich Space
Source: ETH Zurich

After more than 20 years in the USA, Thomas Zurbuchen is returning to Switzerland. The long-standing research director at the US space agency NASA is set to join the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) from the beginning of August, further details of which can be found in a press release. In his new role, Zurbuchen will also be responsible for heading up the ETH Zurich Space initiative. 

“We founded ETH Zurich Space in October 2022 to expand space research and teaching at ETH and to strengthen cooperation with partners from science, industry, and space agencies such as ESA and NASA”, comments Vanessa Wood, Vice President for Knowledge Transfer and Corporate Relations, in the press release. “With his knowledge and global network, Thomas Zurbuchen is the perfect leader for this initiative”, she adds.

A great deal of research into outer space has been carried out at ETH Zurich for many years now. “Space research at ETH Zurich is conducted at an exceedingly high-​level”, Zurbuchen explains, before adding: “I experienced this first-​hand when I was Head of Research at NASA and appreciated the contributions of ETH researchers to the James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars InSight mission”. However, in his new role, Zurbuchen will seek to elevate space research “to a new level” not only at ETH, but across Switzerland and Europe too. "Personally, I think ETH Zurich is the best place to advance these visions", he adds.

To this end, ETH researchers are to be supported in cooperations with companies active in the space industry, while collaborations with other universities are to be ramped up as well. Moreover, Zurbuchen has set a goal of launching “one of the world’s best interdisciplinary master’s degree programs in space science and technology”, he states in the press release. ce/hs

News story in SRF "Tagesschau" with Thomas Zurbuchen (25.05.2023) - German only
News story in SRF "Tagesschau" with Thomas Zurbuchen (25.05.2023) - German only

Space Science in Greater Zurich: Moon Robots, Mars Quakes and Earth-like Exoplanets

There is already a lot of research going on at ETH that deals with space. Projects include, for example, the development of robots for use on the moon, the search for Earth-like exoplanets and the study of quakes on Mars. In addition, ETH scientists are developing technologies for the space industry and sensors to use data from space. Dozens of ETH students are active in the student association ARIS and build space rockets. In addition, there are more than twenty ETH spin-offs that have a direct link to the space sector.

The University of Zurich (UZH) has also had a research arm specifically focused on space research, the UZH Space Hub, since 2018. The aerospace innovation cluster is involved in the major ESA flagship projects LISA Pathfinder and the ESA space telescope Euclid, which will be sent into space in July. UZH also has a number of grants to show for research projects. Three of its spin-offs, Exolabs, Prometheus and AskEarth, are dedicated to space topics. In addition, Schaepman holds various roles associated with ESA.

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