Dr. Melissa Trainer is a Deputy Principal Investigator (PI) for the Dragonfly mission to Saturn's moon Titan, part of the NASA Planetary Science New Frontiers Program. Dr. Trainer is also the lead for the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer (DraMS), an instrument supporting the Dragonfly investigation of Titan's surface composition and characterization of potential prebiotic chemistry.
Dr. Trainer has been at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center since 2009 as a Research Space Scientist in the Planetary Environments Laboratory. Her research interests include the composition of planetary atmospheres and the production of organic molecules and aerosols via atmospheric synthesis.
Dr. Trainer has spent more than a decade characterizing the properties of Titan and early Earth aerosol analogs. Her publications on this topic include chemical, optical, and isotopic characterizations of these analogs produced via electric discharge and photochemical irradiation, with recent emphasis on the elemental composition, nitrogen activation, and the influence of trace species such as benzene.
Dr. Trainer is a science team member on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment aboard the Mars Science Laboratory Mission’s Curiosity Rover, with a focus on the compositional measurements of the Mars atmosphere. She has led the campaign to conduct the first in situ multi-year study of the seasonal variations of the composition of the Mars atmosphere through surface mass spectrometry measurements. She also worked with the SAM team to make the first measurements of the full suite of xenon isotopes in the Mars atmosphere as well as the inventory of other noble gases.
Dr. Trainer was a Co-Investigator and Deputy Instrument Scientist for the cryogenic sampling inlet and Neutral Mass Spectrometer on the proposed Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) Mission, which completed Phase A study in 2012. She was a Co-Investigator on the Discovery Candidate Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which completed Phase A study in 2016.
Throughout her career, Dr. Trainer has been active in the NASA Astrobiology community and she participates in several education and public outreach programs. Dr. Trainer has mentored several summer undergraduate students and NASA Postdoctoral Fellows. She currently serves as the Associate Lab Chief of the Planetary Environments Lab.