Previous Projects

The Space Research and Planetology Division has been involved in space research since the 1960s. A large number of projects have been carried out in this time and we have some older web pages with information about these projects. In general, they are not updated.

Experimental Planetary Science

The Phobos-Grunt mission of Roskosmos was ment to go to Mars in 2011 and to land on Phobos. However, the mission failed in Earth orbit and was lost. The University of Bern contribution was a laser mass spectrometer (LASMA) in collaboration with IKI to investigate the chemical composition of rocks and the regolith on the surface of Phobos.

More information coming soon.

The Venus Express mission of ESA launched on 9 November, 2005 and performed scientific operations from April 2006 until December 2014 in Venus orbit. The University of Bern participated in the Neutral Particle Detector (NPD) of the ASPERA-4 instrument investigating the solar wind interaction with the Venus atmosphere.

The Mars Express mission of ESA launched on 2 June, 2003 and has performed scientific operations in Mars Orbit since December 2003. The University of Bern participates in the Neutral Particle Detector (NPD) of the ASPERA-3 instrument investigating the solar wind interaction with the Martian atmosphere, including is erosion.

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Mars Express spacecraft in June 2003. The mission was intended to provide a flight opportunity for re-builds of experiments lost as a result of the Russion Mars "96 launch failure and reached Mars at Christmas 2003. The re-build allowed several instruments to be improved and upgraded. However, a completely novel element of the Mars Express payload was the Beagle 2 lander. Beagle 2 was designed to descend through the atmosphere of Mars to the surface using a comination of aerobraking, parachutes, and airbags. After coming to rest in the Isidis Planitia region of Mars, (260-270°W, 5-10°N) [Bridges et al., 2000, 2003], the lander was to deploy solar panels and begin scientific operations. The scientific payload comprised an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a Mössbauer spectrometer, a stereo camera system, a stepped combustion mass spectrometer (GAP), a sampling device ("PLUTO"), a set of enviromental sensors, and a microscope [Sims et al., 2000]. The Planetary Imaging Group was involved in the development and testing of microscope system for Beagle 2.

Lunar Research

On 21 July 1969, Buzz Aldrin was the second man stepping on the moon. One of the first things he did was to deploy the solar wind collector (SWC) experiment from the University of Bern. SWC collected solar wind particles that were stuck in a special aluminum foil. This foil was brought back to Earth to be analyzed in the laboratories of University of Bern. The SWC was part of Apollo-11, -12, -14, -15 and -16.

The Chandrayaan-1 is a mission by the Indian Space Agency (ISRO), launched on 22 October, 2008, and stayed in lunar oribt from October 2008 to August 2009. The University of Bern was part of the SARA instrument to investigate the interaction of the solar wind with the lunar surface,

Interstellar Gas

COLLISA (COLLection of InterStellar Atoms) was collecting interstellar particles using the foil collection technique of Apollo. COLLISA was mounted on the SPEKTR module of the MIR space station. Exposed foils were brought back to Earth and analyzed in the laboratory of University of Bern. For example, the 3He/4He isotope ratio of the interstellar gas was determined for the first time (Salerno et al., 2003)

spektr collisa mir
NASA/Lyndon Johnson Space Center, STS071-701-059

Sun and Solar Wind

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) consists of two identical spacecraft on Earth orbit, one moving ahead of the Earth, one behind, to study the Sun in three dimensions In particular to study coronal mass ejections and their propagation in space, energetic particle acceleration, and the ambient solar wind.

The Plasma And Supra-Thermal Ion Composition Investigation (PLASTIC), which the University of Bern participated in, measures the energy distribution and charge and mass composition of the solar wind a and the supra-thermal particles.

More information coming soon.


The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is an ESA mission to study the sun, its interior, its surface and atmosphere, and the solar wind and solar energetic particles. The University of Bern participates to the Charge, (CELIAS) experiment and provides ion optical systems to the CTOF, MTOF and STOF spectrometers, to study the element and isotope composition of the sun.

More information coming soon.

More information coming soon.


More information coming soon.

More information coming soon.

Magnetospheric Research

More information coming soon.

More information coming soon.

The GEOstationary Scientific Satellite (GEOS) of ESA had the objective to study particles, fields and plasmas of Earth's magnetosphere from a geostationary orbit.

S-303 was an ion mass spectrometer (combined electrostatic and magnetostatic analyser) to measure the composition (1-140amu) and energy spectra (up to 16 ke V) of mganetospheric ion. The instrument was built by University of Bern and the MPI Garching.

Cosmic Rays

Cosmic Ray Research
The high energy cosmic ray research group at the ”Physikalische Institut” was established in 1960, to pursue the study of ultrahigh energy (UHE) hadronic interactions well beyond the accelerator domain, and the exploration of the mass composition of the UHE component of the primary cosmic radiation (CR), using extensive air showers (EAS). In this highly complex process strong, electromagnetic and weak interactions occur, and can be studied.

This research topic was originally carried out in collaboration with the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen in connection with quark-hunt experiments, using UHE cosmic rays. The extreme complexity of the EAS process required major theoretical studies for the interpretation of the data, which led to the development of a large EAS simulation program system, known under the name of ASICO (Air shower SImulation and COrrelation). The highly structured program system is now being used by all large EAS experiments worldwide, and is available under the name CORSIKA from KIT at Karlsruhe, Germany, with a variety of new event generators developed by different authors.

This work led to the prediction that the nucleon-antinucleon (NN) production cross section must rise very significantly in the ≥TeV energy range. The result was confirmed in 1972 by experiments at the CERN ISR (Intersecting Storage Ring) collider. NN production plays an important role in the EAS process for the energy transport.

In 1979 the Bernese EAS team established together with U.S. and Japanese groups the pioneering DUMAND (Deep Underwater Muon And Neutrino Detec-tor) project in Hawaii, whose aim it was to develop an experiment to search for the sources of the most energetic cosmic rays in galactic and extragalactic space, using neutrinos1. This project was terminated after the successful operation of a prototype system, and served as template for the giant IceCube neutrino telescope at Antarctica.

The scientific activities in the above mentioned fields produced over 130 publications, reviews, conference proceedings, and books. Some of the latter are re-garded today as standard reference manuals and tutorials, e.g.,

COSMIC RAYS AT EARTH: Researcher’s Reference Manual and Data Book. Peter K. F. Grieder (2001), 1112 pages, 543 figures. ISBN 0-444-50710-8. ELSEVIER, Amsterdam, London, New York, Tokyo.

EXTENSIVE AIR SHOWERS: High Energy Phenomena and Astrophysical Aspects. A Tutorial, Reference Manual and Data Book. Peter K. F. Grieder (2011), Vol. I & II (second print). 1113 pages, 688 figures. ISBN 978-3-540-76940-8. SPRINGER, Heidelberg, Dordrecht, London, New York.