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Mars Exploration Group Leader


  • Organization: ESA - European Space Agency
  • Location: Noordwijk-Binnen
  • Grade: Level not specified
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Civil Society and Local governance
    • Scientist and Researcher
    • Innovations for Sustainable Development
  • Closing Date: 2022-10-05


ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. We therefore welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.


This post is classified A6 on the Coordinated Organisations’ salary scale.


ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands  



Reporting to the Director of Human and Robotic Exploration (D/HRE) and as a member of the Directorate's Management Team, the Mars Exploration Group Leader (equivalent to a Head of Department role) will be responsible for all Martian project developments undertaken by HRE, including completion of the Rosalind Franklin rover mission in cooperation with NASA and ESA contributions to the Mars Sample Return campaign (Earth Return Orbiter, Sample Transfer Arm) in cooperation with NASA/JPL. The Group also acts as owner of the Mars element of the Terrae Novae 2030+ strategy and therefore as the ‘customer’ of future Mars mission studies carried out in the HRE studies and technology team (ExPeRT).


Your principal duties will include:

  • leading and motivating a group of project teams for the concurrent development of two programmes with destination Mars comprising the Rosalind Franklin rover mission and the two ESA contributions to Mars Sample Return (ERO, STA);
  • delivering the projects to performance and to schedule within the allocated budget;
  • implementing actions following the discontinuation of cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars Rover Surface Platform Mission;
  • overseeing the continuing operations of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter managed by the Directorate of Operations (D/OPS);
  • finalising and implementing cooperation agreements with NASA (Rosalind Franklin) and with NASA/JPL (Mars Sample Return) and maintaining harmonious relationships with these entities;
  • reflecting the wider ESA exploration strategy in the work, drawing on contractual relationships with European industry and on strategic partnerships with other space agencies;
  • contributing to the Directorate meeting its commitments to Member States regarding geographical return and industrial policy;
  • reporting progress internally and to Participating State delegations at programme boards;
  • enhancing ESA's positive reputation in space exploration and strengthening the relationship between ESA and other global agencies as an enabler for further cooperation;
  • managing the allocated human and financial resources of the Group, developing and motivating individuals by assessing the performance of direct reports, encouraging learning and development, by delegating responsibilities and providing regular, constructive feedback;
  • creating and maintaining a trustful relationship with the E3P Terrae Novae Participating States;
  • managing, in close cooperation with the SciSpacE team, the interests of the European scientific community in the exploitation of the missions, including future samples to be returned by MSR and possible contributions to ground-based facilities such as a Sample Receiving Facility;
  • maintaining close and harmonious relationships between the D/HRE and D/OPS (operations), the Directorate of Science (mission science) and the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality (technical support).

Technical competencies

Identifying key priorities and urgent issues within a complex and broad perimeter of responsibility
Delivery of complex projects within cost and schedule
Experience in ESA procurement processes and contract management as well as applied negotiation skills
Interaction with European space industry at the highest level
Technical and contract negotiation and the ability to secure win/win outcomes
Complex project risk management processes
Ability to brief senior decision makers under crisis conditions

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation
Operational Efficiency
Fostering Cooperation
Relationship Management
Continuous Improvement
Forward Thinking


A master's degree in a science or engineering discipline is required.

Additional requirements

This is a senior management position with a budget responsibility of around €250m/year. You should be highly experienced in spacecraft development projects.
The role involves managing a small team of senior project managers and organising their activities, ensuring a motivating work environment and enabling them to deliver the individual projects in a coherent way. You will therefore need to demonstrate a full range of leadership skills including:

  • understanding the business context and motivations of Participating States, industry and the science community;
  • driving performance and promoting diversity of people and ideas in your team;
  • strong problem-solving skills to deal with day-to-day operational challenges, together with demonstrated planning and organisational skills;
  • leading change, for example in optimising Directorate and wider processes to deliver more efficiently;
  • working collaboratively within a wider Directorate management team;
  • a readiness to contribute to inter-Directorate activities and the wider development of ESA as a whole.

You must be able to manage challenging situations proactively while maintaining a customer focus. You should know how to drive your team's performance by setting clear goals, encouraging learning, providing constructive feedback and delegating wherever possible. You will have good communication and influencing skills, with the ability to explain your position and convince others while also being able to listen and take advantage of colleagues’ experience. You should be able to concisely synthesise complex information and eliminate unnecessary detail in reporting to senior management and delegations.
Frequent missions may be required to lead industry premises in Europe, as well as NASA HQ and NASA/JPL in the US.
NOTE: given the current COVID-19 situation, the role may also involve partial teleworking, with a reduction in physical travel.

You should also have:

  • proven experience of leading, motivating and developing a team;
  • the ability to provide strategic direction to the individuals and teams within the Department and to relate team objectives to the overall, evolving organisational goals and context;
  • the ability to drive performance and foster cooperation within and across teams throughout the organisation;
  • demonstrated excellent leadership, relationship management and communication skills, both oral and written;
  • a proven track record of representing the Agency’s interests to external interfaces;
  • excellent cognitive, analytical, delegation, planning and organisational skills;
  • the ability to anticipate problems, solve complex issues and relate situations to their context;
  • the ability to reach solution-oriented, pragmatic and timely decisions of a high standard and with integrity as well as to support others (team members, upper management, other stakeholders) in this process.

People management experience is an asset, as is international experience, i.e. outside your home country, as well as experience in diverse functional areas relevant to ESA activities.

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.  

For further information please visit: Professionals,What we offerand FAQ   

The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required.
Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.  

Please note that applicants may be required to undergo psychometric testing and other assessments.  

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities.  Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace.  The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us at [email protected].


Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Canada, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia.


In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment conducted by an external background screening service. 

We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.