Britney Schmidt joined The Planetary Society’s Board of Directors in 2016. Her areas of expertise are planetary ices and the early solar system. As assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, she leads a research group focused on understanding how planets support life.
Britney has been involved in planetary research since 2001 after receiving a B.S. in Physics from the University of Arizona and M.S. and Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from UCLA.
Since 2007, Britney has assisted NASA Science Definition Teams for Europa missions and played a key role in developing the Europa Clipper and Europa Lander mission concepts, including the recently selected NASA Europa Multiple Flyby mission, and the ongoing Large Optical UV and InfraRed space telescope (LUVOIR). On the Europa Flagship mission, she is an investigator on the REASON ice penetrating radar instrument that will look for water and characterize the ice at Europa. She’s also an associate of the Dawn Framing Camera team studying the geology of icy materials on Ceres.
Britney is keenly interested in the habitability of icy worlds to search for life beyond Earth. Her work involves spacecraft data from distant ocean worlds, and field work in Antarctica. There, her research team studies Earth’s ice shelves and glaciers to explore analogs for Europa and other ice-ocean moons and to capture the impacts of changing climate here on Earth.
Britney has spent several years helping develop underwater vehicles to explore Earth and, hopefully one day, Europa. She was the PI of Sub-Ice Marine and Planetary Analog Ecosystems (SIMPLE), a NASA program studying the McMurdo Ice Shelf using remote sensing and underwater vehicles.
She’s also the PI of a new project called RISE UP: Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe, which will build new capabilities into Icefin, a AUV/ROV built by her team at Georgia Tech. The RISE UP project will use Icefin to swim underneath the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica over the next four years.
Britney’s hobbies outside of studying other worlds include heavy metal music, cats, horses, baseball, sports cars, and scuba diving.
Image credit: Peter Kimball