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Caroline-Emmanuelle Morisset – Program Scientist (Planetary Science)

Caroline-Emmanuelle Morisset
  • Studies: Bachelor in geology, Université du Québec à Montréal; master in geology, Université du Québec à Montréal; Ph.D. in geology, University of British Columbia
  • Job title: Program scientist (planetary science)
  • Employer: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
  • Projects: Preservation of samples from the OSIRIS-REx mission, Canadian lunar rover, science component of the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program

OSIRIS-REx mission

What is your role in this mission?

My role is related to preserving Canada's portion of the sample. I am responsible for making all the arrangements so that the sample is preserved for decades to come, and for clearly establishing the process of loaning out sub-samples.

What part of the mission are you excited about?

Right here in Canada, we're going to have pieces of asteroid Bennu that were collected in space. Wow! We think that Bennu is a fragment of material that was present when the solar system was forming. Unlike meteorites, these pieces will not be contaminated by Earth, and they will enable us to better understand the composition and formation of the solar system. Thanks to previous studies conducted by telescope, we know that this asteroid contains a lot of carbon, an essential element in organic molecules. It's very likely that Bennu is rich in organic molecules and that it contains water. Better understanding its composition will help us evaluate the role that asteroids played in the origins of life on Earth.

What tasks do you do most often as part of your work?

Lots of meetings and emails! We are constantly making decisions, and that requires a lot of consultation and conversation with colleagues at the CSA, but also with the planetary science research community in Canada. We conduct most of our projects in partnership with other space agencies, and that involves lots of contact with our international counterparts.

What motivates you?

When we are often doing things for the first time, we are frequently tackling new challenges. It's incredible to have the opportunity to work on projects where we are trailblazers!

What is your education and career path?

I'm a geologist specialized in geochemistry. For a long time, I have studied the composition of rocks in order to evaluate their origins. I've worked on Earth rocks and lunar rocks, and soon I'll have the chance to help preserve rocks from asteroid Bennu. Part of my career was focused on Earth. For a number of years, I worked for an engineering and consulting firm doing environmental geochemical evaluations for mining sites. Then I had the opportunity to join the CSA as a program scientist and use my knowledge of geochemistry and the Moon to work on preserving samples from the OSIRIS-REx mission and our lunar program.

Who or what helped you the most throughout your career?

Hard work. The trick is to develop your work skills, persevere and keep your eyes peeled for doors that open up to you.

If you could go back to your teen years, what advice would you give your younger self?

Not to worry so much. When you work hard and are curious and motivated, you get to where you want to be.

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