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Mission Team

Principal Investigator for STAFF


Patrick Canu
Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas, CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique /UPMC, Plaiseau, France

Nationality: French

Patrick Canu was born in Mondeville, France, in 1955. He is a child of the Apollo era, being fascinated by the first manned mission to the Moon. His early interest in space exploration was rapidly extended to the entire field of astrophysics. He got a Master in Physics degree at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC). His first experience in space plasma physics missions was in 1979, when he got a student job at CRPE (Centre de Recherches en Physique de l'Environnement) at Issy-les-Moulineaux. He joined the Wave Plasma Group headed by Roger Gendrin, where he helped process and classify the wave data collected by the ESA GEOS-1&2 spacecraft, under the supervision of Nicole Cornilleau. He completed his doctoral thesis in 1982, in the same team, focusing on the interpretation of GEOS observations of resonances triggered by relaxation sounders and the strong electrostatic emissions close to the electron plasma frequency observed in geostationary orbit. This provided him a good background in electron Bernstein modes. He then spent one year as an ESA Fellow, at the Danish Space Research Institute in Denmark where he analysed data coming from the GEOS medium energy electron detector.

Patrick returned to CRPE in 1984 with a permanent staff position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), to work on the ESA Ulysses spacecraft that was due to be launched soon after. The loss of the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger, which would have launched the probe, delayed the launch by four years. This period of time was used to study in detail the electron plasma waves observed by the ISEE-1 spacecraft in the electron foreshock upstream of the Earth's bow shock, and beam plasma instability.

This was also the period when the team, led by Alain Roux, was deeply involved in the proposal of the Cluster mission to ESA. Beginning in 1985, Patrick Canu used his experience in relaxation sounders, gained from GEOS and ISEE, to help develop the science rationale and the characteristics of the instrument that was later selected as WHISPER, with Pierrette Décréau as Principal Investigator.

From 1987-1992 was a particularly busy time for Patrick, since he was involved in the definition of the WHISPER and Cassini-RPWS relaxation sounder, and in the first contact with the Jupiter's magnetosphere through the analysis of the Ulysses observations collected during the flyby.

Since the successful launch of Cluster in 2000 he has been involved with the WHISPER team, as a Co-Investigator, in various studies on the origin and mechanism of electrostatic and remote electromagnetic emissions. Since 2004, this has extended to the exploration of Saturn's magnetosphere from a wave point of view. In 2006, he succeeded Nicole Cornilleau as the head of the Plasma Wave Group of the Centre d'Etude Des Environnements Terrestre et Planetaires (CETP), and helped to create, in 2009, the LPP (Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas) where he is head of the Space Plasma group. In 2010, Nicole suggested that he take her position as Principal Investigator of Cluster-STAFF.

Patrick is married to Michelle; they have two children and his family all support - and endure - his passion for space exploration.


Last Update: 28 February 2014

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