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Karl Mitchell

Photo of Karl Mitchell


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-601

Pasadena, CA 91109-8099



Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Planetary Interiors and Geophysics


Karl Mitchell is a planetary scientist, mission formulator and educator.

He moved JPL from the UK in 2005 to join the Cassini-Huygens project, both on the Cassini RADAR team and later as a science planner. He has worked on a wide variety of science and engineering projects, publishing over 60 peer-reviewed papers and winning 16 NASA grants (4 as PI), featuring targets as diverse as Titan, Mars, Venus, Io, Enceladus, Triton and Earth. Karl's scientific work focuses primarily on the use of observation-informed models to understand active geological fluid processes on other worlds and their implications for workings and habitability. This has led to research has mostly focused on studying planetary surfaces and near-surface environments, particular volcanology, hydrology and applied remote sensing. He is also actively engaged in technical and scientific development and field testing of related novel technologies, especially those relating to caves and vents.

From 2017-2021, Karl’s main focus was on Trident, a mission to Neptune’s exotic moon Triton. He was the initial concept champion, leading the early science development, and then served as Project Scientist, leading the science implementation effort. The mission was down-selected for Phase A studies, but not ultimately selected despite excellent evaluations. He continues to be actively engaged in formulation of mission concepts for Ice Giant systems and ocean worlds.

Since 2021, Karl has served as Program Manager for Planetary Science Research & Analysis, helping JPL proposers win NASA ROSES grants, and overseeing active proposals, guiding a team of six Discipline Program Managers. This benefits from a long-term interest in the use of the scientific method in the devising of hypothesis-based approach to both R&A and mission proposals.

Karl is an engaged and enthusiastic mentor and educator, specializing in training early career scientists and engineers to work together within actual and simulated mission development environments. A major outlet for this is in his role as lead science mentor for the annual NASA Planetary Science Summer School, but more recently he has also been training new science mentors under the broader NASA Science Mission Design Schools umbrella.

In his spare time, Karl enjoys roadtrips to the national and state parks of the US southwest, climbing through caves, various music-related activities, and going to elaborate costumed balls.


  • B. Sc. (hons.) in Physics with Space Science and Technology, Leicester University (1995)
  • M.Sc./D.I.C. in Remote Sensing (Land Applications option), University of London (intercollegiate) (1996)
  • Ph.D. in Environmental Sci., Lancaster University (2002)

Current Roles:

  • Program Manager, Planetary Science Research & Analysis (4112)
  • Science Lead/Co-Lead for three ongoing mission concept studies

Professional Experience

  • Concept champion and Project Scientist, Trident Discovery 2019 (2017-2021)
  • Science Legacy Planner (TOST), Cassini (2017-2018)
  • Science Planner (TOST), Cassini (2015-2017)
  • Lead Science Mentor, NASA Planetary Science Summer School (2013-present)
  • Associate, Cassini RADAR Team (2005-present)
  • Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2008-present)
  • NRC Postdoctoral Research Associate/NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2005-2008)
  • PPARC Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Environmental Science Department, Lancaster University (2001-2005)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Geomatic Engineering, University College, London (1999-2001)

Research Interests

  • Conduit flow in plume-feeding eruptions on both rocky and icy worlds, especially Triton and Enceladus.
  • Planetary science
    • Geology and geophysics of Triton
    • The lakes and seas of Titan, from Cassini RADAR
    • Volcanism, including cryovolcanism.
    • Titan and Mars hydrology
    • Habitability of ocean worlds
  • Geological fluid dynamics
    • Volcanic ascent and eruption dynamics
    • Relationship between volcanic landforms and eruption models
    • Hydrologic channel flow
  • Remote sensing
    • Topographic remote sensing of planetary surfaces
    • Orbital stereo photogrammetry
  • Mission and technology development
    • Hypothesis-driven planetary science mission formulation and traceability
    • Cave and vent exploration technologies
    • Sub-mm, radar and imaging instrumentation, especially for topography and plume dynamics/topology.

Selected Publications

64 peer-reviewed publications at