There are many Greeks who are distinguishing themselves abroad in their professional fields. One of them is Athena Coustenis, the Director of Research 1st class with the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Observatory of Paris-Meudon, in France. Her research is devoted to the investigation of planetary atmospheres and surfaces, with emphasis on icy moons like Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter’s Ganymede and Europa, objects with high astrobiological potential. She has led many observational campaigns from the ground and space using large observatories (CFHT, UKIRT, VLT, etc), and the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) to conduct planetary investigations. Athena is a Co-Investigator of three of the instruments (CIRS, HASI, DISR) aboard the Cassini/Huygens space mission to Saturn and Titan. She also works on the characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres.
She was born on September 28th 1961, in Athens, Greece. In 1980 she began studying both Physics and English Literature in Paris. She earned a Master Degree in Astrophysics and Space techniques and a second Master Degree in English Literature and in 1989 she earned a PhD in Astrophysics and Space techniques from University 7 in Paris. Later, she completed a Post-Doc at Paris Observatory.
The Greek scientist participated in European Space Agency’s (ESA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) space missions and was heavily involved in the Cassini-Huygens mission as well as into the preparation of future space missions to Jupiter and Saturn planets.
She has been awarded many times by both NASA and ESA. In 1996, she was awarded with the Diploma of Management Research in Astrophysics and Space Technology by the University 7 of Paris, which is the highest academic eminence in France. In 2012, she got the award of «Prix pour la réussite au Feminin»
According to the American Astronomical Society, Athena Coustenis has an impressive scientific research career and has made major contributions to planetary science in the spirit of the Harold Masursky award. The prize was awarded to her in November 2014, in Arizona, USA.
She is President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences and of the Planetary Sciences Division of the European Geosciences union and a life member of the Air Academy of Greece. She is also member of the American Astronomical society, she is executive director of Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, French Astronomical union, International Astronomical union and American Geophysical union.
Athena is involved in the science definition of the JUICE mission developed by ESA to study Ganymede and the jovian system, currently planned for launch in 2022. She is the current Chair of the Space Sciences Committee of the European Science Foundation. She is also contributing to several advisory groups for the European Space Agency and for NASA.