Professor Mark Sims

Professor of Astrobiology and Space Instrumentation

School/Department: Physics & Astronomy, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3513



I obtained both my B.Sc (1977) and PhD (1982) from the University of Leicester. The latter included some work on data analysis from Ariel 5 in particular the bright X-ray transient A0620-00. My PhD was on a shadow based wide field of view camera for X-ray astronomy.

I was a European Space Agency Research Fellow based at ESTEC Noordwijk the Netherlands from 1981 to 1984. There I worked on the EXOSAT, Kvant and MIR missions and SpaceLab 1 experiment 23 which flew on the 9th Space Shuttle flight (STS-9).

I returned to Leicester in 1984 to work as assembly integration and test manager on the German-USA-UK X-ray/XUV ROSAT mission I became mission manager for the first year of operations. I then became Leicester project manager for the JET-X ray telescope for the Russian Spectrum-RG mission. 1997 until 2004 I was mission manager for the Beagle 2 Mars lander project (ESA’s Mars Express mission).This include managing the instrument programme and leading the flight operations. 2003 until 2013 I was principal investigator (PI) of the Life Marker Chip (LMC) life detection instrument on ExoMars. The Leicester team under my leadership qualified the design of the National Space Centre's education experiments flown as part of Tim Peake's Principia mission.

I chaired the STFC Aurora (Space Exploration) Advisory Committee 2005 to 2009 and am a member of the UK Space Agency’s Space Technology Advisory Committee, Space Standards Advisory Board and am an academic representative on UK Space's (UK Space trade association) Space Science and Exploration Committee.

I have hence worked on 10 space missions with roles from data analysis through launch site operations to flight operations and acting as PI and have taken part in many consultancy projects with industry. My research interests are multi-fold including space instrumentation and technology.

I am Director of the Space Research Centre. I am also co-director of the Diagnostics Development Unit based at the Leicester Royal Infirmary which has and is developing techniques for non-invasive diagnosis of disease. 

I led the academic team that helped design Space Park Leicester (SPL) building and specify the equipment needed and am Principal Investigator for the ERDF STAR Accelerator programme that provides equipment to both industry and academia for state of the art manufacturing and design. I am heavily involved in the UKRPIF METEOR research programme for SPL and designing further phases and development of the site.


My research interests are multi-fold including space instrumentation and technology. Some research focuses on uses of technology in other fields, examples include medical diagnostics and forensics. My research funding comes from a variety of sources including European Space Agency, STFC, Innovate UK, MRC.


Development Status of the Life Marker Chip Instrument for ExoMars, M.R. Sims, D.C. Cullen, C.S. Rix, A. Buckley, M. Derveni, D. Evans, L.M. Garcia-Con, A. Rhodes, C.C. Rato, M. Stefinovic, M.A. Sephton, R.W. Court, C. Bulloch, I. Kitchingman, Z. Ali, D. Pullan, J. Holt. O. Blake, J. Sykes, P. Samara-Ratna, M. Canali, G. Borst, H, Leeuwis, A. Prak, A. Norfini, E. Geraci, M. Tavanti, J. Brucato and N. Holm, Planetary and Space Sciences, 2012, 72, 129-139.

Novel Solvent Systems for In-situ Extraterrestrial Sample Analysis, R. Court, A.O. Baki, M.R. Sims, D. Cullen, and M.A. Sephton, Planetary and Space Science 58, 2010, 1470-1474.

Searching for Life on Mars: Selection of Molecular Targets for ESA’s Aurora ExoMars Mission, J. Parnell, D. Cullen, M.R. Sims, S. Bowden, C.S. Cockell, R. Court, P. Ehrenfreund, F. Gaubert, W. Grant, V. Parro, M. Rohmer, M. Sephton, H. Stan-Lotter, A. Steele, J. Toporski, and J. Vago, Astrobiology,  (August) 2007, 7, Number 4, pp 578-604.

The Specific Molecular identification of Life Experiment (SMILE), M.R. Sims, D.C. Cullen, N.P. Bannister, W.D. Grant, O. Henry, R. Jones, D. McKnight, D.P. Thompson and  P.K. Wilson, Planetary and Space Science, 53, 8 (July) 2005, p781-791

An Evaluation of In-situ Analysis and Sample Return in the Exploration of Mars, M.R. Sims, D. Pullan, C.T. Pillinger, and I. Wright, Planetary and Space Sci, 50, 7-8 (June-July), 2002, p657-668.

A Wide Field X-ray Camera, M.R. Sims, M.J. Turner and R. Willingale, Space Science Instrumentation 5, No.2, 1980, P.109-119.


Due to other work I act as second supervisor on space engineering astrobiology and instrumentation projects.


Due to other work I do not undertake teaching.

Press and media

Space engineering and missions astrobiology and instrumentation.



B.Sc Physics with Astrophysics 1st Class Honours University of Leicester 1977

Ph.D University of Leicester 1982

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