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Masterstudium

Overview M.Sc. Planetary Sciences and Space Exploration

The "Planetary Sciences and Space Exploration" Master's program is hosted by the three institutes of the Department of Earth Sciences, and includes professors and lecturers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Natural History Museum (MfN) in Berlin. After a standard period of study of 4 semesters, successful students will be awarded the degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.). The language of instruction is English.

Since the program is accessible to those with a wide range of Bachelor degrees, the goals in the first semester are a) to equip all students with a ‘toolkit’ to successfully participate in subsequent coursework and b) to bring all students to a common basic foundation in planetary sciences. Depending on their previous knowledge, students will have to take two out of three synchronization modules, which provide basic geological, computational, or physical and mathematical training.

 

Most core modules are taught in the first two semesters and - in addition to introductory courses in planetary sciences and remote sensing - encompass planetary physics as well as planetary atmospheres and climate. Starting in the second semester students can begin to specialize with elective modules. Here they benefit from the extraordinarily wide scope of expertise at FU Berlin and can choose between courses spanning a range of fields such as: 

  • planetary exploration with space probes 

  • remote sensing of the Earth with satellites

  • planetary geology

  • planetary physics and dynamics

  • computational modeling of planetary processes

  • exoplanets and planetary habitability

  • laboratory work and excursions

 

Students will also gain insights into possible career paths, by attending research seminars with professional scientists and undertaking their Master’s thesis research in one of the world-leading groups at FU Berlin or nearby research institutions like the DLR Institute of Planetary Research. During an 8-week internship, students will get additional hands-on experience inside a university or non-university research institution or company in Germany or abroad. 

With this Master’s degree in hand, students are certified for independent research in planetary sciences and space exploration and, with that, are ready to find a job at research institutions, space agencies (e.g. ESA, NASA), relevant industrial sectors with a focus on (aero)space and satellite technology, and Earth remote sensing. For those graduates who want to continue with doctoral study, the unique Berlin research landscape in planetary sciences and space exploration offers the best possibilities anywhere in Germany and is one of the few world class venues in Europe.

 

The following information pertains to the Study and Examination Regulations of 2021 (effective from the study period starting with the winter semester 2022/23).


The Master's program encompasses a total of 120 credit points (abbr. CP) and subdivides into modules which as a rule comprise several interconnected forms of teaching and learning.

These 120 credit points are distributed over a number of areas, each consisting of a set of modules:

Synchronization area

12 credit points

Core area

43 credit points

Specialization area

35 credit points 

Master’s thesis

30 credit points (including research project, participation in a colloquium and presentation of the thesis findings)

  

The synchronization area, totaling 12 CP, establishes a common foundation for the Master’s degree in fields that students may not be familiar with from their respective Bachelor’s degree programs. It includes the following modules:

    • Geological Foundations (6 CP)

    • Computational Methods (6 CP)

    • Physical and Mathematical Foundations (6 CP)

  

To earn the mandatory 12 CP in this area, students are asked to complete 2 of these modules, selected by criteria based on the credit points earned in respective subjects during their Bachelor’s degree programs.

In the core area, the following modules have to be completed by all students

  • Introduction to Planetary Sciences and planet formation (9 CP), 

  • Principles of GIS and remote sensing (6 CP),

  • Planetary physics (6 CP),

  • Planetary atmospheres and climate (6 CP),

  • Insights into current research (6 CP)

  • Insights into the professional and research landscape (10 CP).

  

The specialization area, totalling 35 credit points, allows in-depth studies of specific fields through a choice of elective modules. 

  • Planetary exploration: space missions (5 CP)

  • Planetary exploration: methods and instrumentation ( 5CP)

  • Planetary surface processes and morphology (5 CP

  • Advanced remote sensing of the Earth (10 CP)

  • Introduction to advanced geodata analysis (5 CP)

  • Celestial mechanics (5 CP)

  • The outer solar system (5 CP)

  • Magnetospheres (5 CP)

  • Satellite-based meteorology (10 CP)

  • Planetary evolution and habitability (5 CP)

  • Exoplanets (5 CP)

  • Geophysical modeling of planets and moons (5 CP)

  • Numerical methods in geosciences and planetary sciences (5 CP)

  • Meteorites and the formation of terrestrial planets (5 CP)

  • Laboratory methods for the analysis of planetary materials (5 CP)

  • Planetary field trips (5 CP)

  • Several modules with current special topics (each 5 CP)

  

Students write their Master's thesis in English during the fourth semester. After completion it is defended through a presentation and oral examination. WIth suitable scientific supervision, the Master's thesis can be written in cooperation with, for example, a scientific research facility outside Freie Universität Berlin.

1st semester

2nd semester

3rd semester

4th semester

Synchronization area (12 CP)

Geological foundations 

6 CP

     

Physical and mathe- matical foundations 

6 CP

     

Computational methods 

6 CP

     

Core area (43 CP)

Introduction to planetary sciences and planet formation

9 CP

Planetary physics

6 CP

   

Principles of GIS and remote sensing

6 CP

Planetary atmospheres and climate

6 CP

   
 

Insights into current research

6 CP 

 
 

Insights into the professional and research landscape

10 CP 

 

Specialization area (35 CP)

 

Elective module 

5 CP

Elective module 

5 CP

 
 

Elective module 

5 CP

Elective module 

5 CP

 
   

Elective module 

5 CP

 
   

Elective module 

5 CP

 
   

Elective module 

5 CP

 

Master’s thesis (30 CP)

     

Master’s thesis, colloquium, oral presentation of results

30 CP

27 CP

31 CP

32 CP

30 CP

120 CP

  • Application period

For the first semester only: 15th of April until 31st of May (for the winter term)

For later semesters only:   1st of July until 15th of August (for the winter term) and

                                          1st of January until 15th of February (for the summer term)

More information can be found on the central pages of the Admissions Office of the Freie Universität Berlin: https://www.fu-berlin.de/en/studium/bewerbung/index.html 

 

  • Prerequisites for admission

Admission requires

  1. a Bachelor's degree or professional qualification from a German or comparable international institution in the natural sciences or engineering sciences,

  2. at least 36 credit points (CP) awarded in the area of geosciences, biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, or computer sciences, including at least 8 CP in the area of physics and at least 10 CP in the area of mathematics and/or statistics,

  3. for applicants who have completed their university degree at an institution where English was not the teaching language, proficiency in English to at least the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) or equivalent.

The examining board decides whether the admission criteria are met. 

Candidates are selected for the Master’s program by consideration of the following criteria: 

  1. The level of qualification as demonstrated by the applicant’s academic performance in their previous degree program.

  2. A weighting of the subject or subjects studied as part of the previous degree program that can indicate the candidate’s motivation and suitability for the degree for which they are applying.

  3. Other relevant qualifications acquired outside of a university degree program.

  4. The result of an interview with the applicants, which should provide information about their motivation and qualification for the Master's Program.

While a B.Sc. provides a broad basic education, an M.Sc. involves significant specialization. Successful applicants for this study program must therefore be able to clearly express themselves in spoken and written formats, as well as possess both a basic acquaintance with subject matter and methodology in the natural sciences, as well as an aptitude for independent learning and scientific research.

Further information and access to the admission process can be found in the articles of admission.

  • Tuition fees

There are no tuition fees. However, there is a small matriculation fee to be paid which includes a public transportation ticket.

The geosciences department at Freie Universität Berlin offers comprehensive, broad training and exemplary fundamental research in almost all areas of terrestrial and planetary geosciences. The expertise of the three Institutes of Geological Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Meteorology is reflected in the interdisciplinary “Planetary Sciences and Space Exploration” Master's program. The planetary sciences and remote sensing research groups at the Institute of Geological Sciences are involved in several international programs of planetary exploration (Mars, Saturn, exoplanets) and collaborative research projects, such as the DFG-Collaborative Research Center-Transregio TRR 170 “Late accretion on terrestrial planets”. 

Furthermore, the department is connected to numerous institutions in the metropolitan area of Berlin, most notably the Institute of Planetary Research of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Museum of Natural History (MFN), which participate in teaching, joint research projects and internships, and supervision of Master's theses.

The Institutes of Geological and Geographical Sciences are located on the green Freie Universiät Berlin GeoCampus in Lankwitz. The Institute of Meteorology is located in Dahlem on a separate campus.

Graduates of the Master’s degree have an advanced understanding of the problems and methods related to planetary sciences and remote sensing. They are aware of the current field of research in relation to planetary bodies both within and without our solar system. They are familiar with the multiple ways in which satellites and space probes are used for remote sensing of the Earth and other planetary objects, and have the knowledge and ability to interpret and analyze remote sensing and mission data. Their theoretical and methodological subject-specific and interdisciplinary skills meet internationally recognized standards. Graduates are equipped with subject-specific and conceptual strategies and they are familiar with both academic and non-academic research environments. Depending on their individual interests, graduates will also have gained focussed knowledge and skills in areas of their choice.

 

Graduates of the Master’s degree are qualified to take up professional employment or to continue with doctoral study. They are qualified to work in fields including national or international research institutions (either in a university or a non-university context, e.g. the German Aerospace Center, natural history museums) or space agencies (e.g. European Space Agency [ESA], National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]), and in relevant industrial sectors with a focus on (aero)space, satellite technology, and Earth remote sensing. They may also find employment in the areas of management and organization, e.g. of space missions.

  • General information regarding your application is available on the central pages of the Freie Universität Berlin.

  • For all parts of the study program, departmental academic advising is offered by lecturers. Additional academic advising and support from students for students (mainly for the first semester) is offered by the mentoring scheme.