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Astronomy

Farah Alibay: Searching for intelligent life with HabEx

An interview from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017.

13 September 2017, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201709.02

The Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) is a concept for a mission to directly image planetary systems around Sun-like stars. The current baseline for HabEx is a 4-meter diameter off-axis telescope designed to both search for habitable planets and perform general astrophysics observations, possibly combined with a starshade.

At SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017, Farah Alibay of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), presented the initial flight system design for both the telescope and the starshade, focusing on the key and driving requirements and subsystems, as well as the trajectory design. She also discussed some of the initial design trades undergone, as well as the key challenges and future trade studies.

Farah Alibay is a systems engineer at JPL. Prior to joining JPL, she obtained a bachelor's and master's degree in Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering at the University of Cambridge, and a PhD in Space Systems Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her primary research focused on spatially and temporally distributed multi-vehicle architectures for planetary exploration. Since then, she has worked on a number of early mission concepts for both small and larger missions.

She was the systems engineer for MarCO, a CubeSat mission that will help support telecommunication relay for the InSight mission during entry, descent, and landing on Mars. She was also the mission planner for the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) and the flight systems engineer for the HabEx study, a mission to directly image planetary systems around Sun-like stars.

Alibay is now a payload systems engineer on the InSight mission, which will launch to Mars in May 2018.