Planetary exploration concerns the application of the expertise of the department to define instruments, trajectories and missions for exploring the characteristics of other planets and moons in our solar system. Major sub-themes are autonomous navigation and extremely precise deep-space tracking with innovative laser ranging and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) techniques. The theme also encompasses planetary physics. 2010 saw the appointment of Prof. Imke de Pater from Berkeley, the internationally acknowledged expert in planetary sciences, as part-time professor and in 2016, a joined professorship of Prof. Bernhard Brandl at Leiden University and at our section fosters ties with the astronomy community.
The ambition is to become the principal investigator for a dedicated instrument on one of the future international planetary missions. Of particular interest are sub-surface oceans on planetary moons and planetary ring systems.