Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Giuseppe Cataldo


Giuseppe Cataldo's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.3491
Org Code: 546
Mail Code 665
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Giuseppe Cataldo helps oversee and guide the planetary protection efforts of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program. His expertise is in project management, decision-making under uncertainty and risk management, with a strong background in systems engineering, modeling, analysis and optimization of complex, large-scale systems with applications for astronomy, astrophysics, planetary and Earth sciences.

Giuseppe has contributed to a variety of NASA missions and projects such as:

  • JWST, the James Webb Space Telescope, for which he spearheaded the development of a Bayesian-based model validation approach and uncertainty quantification framework that led to drastic reductions in the time and cost of the required analysis cycles with superior results when compared to state-of-the-art methodologies. For further details, see here.
  • EXCLAIM, the EXperiment for Cryogenic Large-Aperture Intensity Mapping, a far-infrared balloon-borne telescope, whose development he led as chief engineer,
  • PRIME, the PRime-focus Infrared Microlensing Experiment, whose near-infrared camera development he led as chief engineer,
  • ATLAST, the Advanced-Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope, now known as Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO),
  • OSIRIS-REx, the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer,
  • Micro-X, the High-Resolution Microcalorimeter X-ray Imaging Rocket,
  • feasibility and multidisciplinary optimization studies of instrumentation for space telescopes (e.g., Micro-Spec), payloads for Earth-imaging satellites, and advanced concepts for lunar exploration.

He first joined NASA in 2009 fully sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of the two European students selected for the NASA Academy, NASA's premiere leadership program for talented students. During the program, he was one of the select recipients of the John Mather Nobel Scholar Award.

Giuseppe is fond of space policy and contributes to public outreach and educational activities for young students, professionals and the general public in a variety of settings around the world. He speaks six languages and in his spare time, he enjoys playing violin and piano, swimming, hiking, skiing, sailing, reading, traveling and hanging out with his friends.


PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics

Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering within the Top International Managers in Engineering (TIME) Program

  • Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace SUPAERO, Toulouse, France (November 2010)
  • Thesis title: Optical Properties of Astronomical Silicates with Infrared Techniques

Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering within the High Polytechnic School (ASP) Program

  • Polytechnic Institute of Turin, Italy (November 2010)
  • Thesis as above

Master's degree in Aeronautical Engineering

  • Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy (October 2010)
  • Thesis as above

Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering

  • Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy (July 2007)
  • Thesis title: Experimental research on innovative solid fuels for hybrid propellers


AIAA Associate Fellow, 2024

NASA Group Achievement Award (PRIME Wide Field Imager Team), 2024

NASA Goddard Science Group Award (PRIME Wide Field Imager Team), 2023

NASA Special Act Award (CCRS Back Planetary Protection Preliminary Design), 2023

NASA Goddard Sciences & Exploration Directorate Mentoring Award, 2021

NASA Special Act Award (Multi-messenger Astrophysics Probe Study Team), 2021

NASA Goddard Engineering Team Award (JWST Integrated Modeling Team), 2020

Young Scientist Award (Italian Cultural Society of Washington, DC), 2019

AIAA Senior Member, 2019

NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal, 2017

NASA Group Achievement Award (JWST Core 2 Test Team), 2017

First "Ex-alunno" Prize ("A. Chionna" Middle and Elementary School, Lizzano, Italy), 2015

AIAA Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award, 2014

MIT Arthur Gelb Fellowship, 2012-2013

Honorary Plaque (Mayor of Lizzano, Italy), 2012

Mayoux-Dauriac Prize (ISAE-SUPAERO, France), 2010

Pegasus Award (ISAE-SUPAERO and Polytechnic Institute of Milan), 2010

ESA Research Grant, 2010

NASA John Mather Nobel Scholar Award, 2009

NASA Academy Award (NASA/ESA), 2009

Top Industrial Managers for Europe Award (TIME), 2008

High Polytechnic School Award, 2008

Numerous travel grants (SPIE, IEEE, MIT, NASA)

Current Projects

Mars Sample Return (MSR)


  • Helps to oversee all planetary protection efforts aimed at achieving an appropriate risk posture and building an assurance case for this first Category V Restricted Earth Return mission, with the goal to avoid introducing extraterrestrial material of concern into Earth’s biosphere.
  • Oversees requirements verification for all project engineering systems used to break the chain of contact with Mars and assure containment of unsterilized Mars particles through Earth return in a ballistic Earth entry system without parachute.
  • Coordinates activities with all relevant teams and interfaces to support interactions with external stakeholders.
  • Leads all related modeling, simulation and uncertainty quantification efforts.

Multifidelity Uncertainty Quantification (MFUQ)

Theory & Modeling

  • Leads all efforts to develop and apply an efficient framework for multifidelity uncertainty quantification to inform and guide the design, verification and validation processes of complex, large-scale, multidisciplinary systems throughout their life cycle.
  • MFUQ leverages a variety of low-fidelity models to obtain speed-ups, while keeping the main high-fidelity model in the loop to guarantee convergence to the correct result.
  • MFUQ enables rigorous UQ and provides insightful results from a complex system model faster and with a better understanding of the model inputs and outputs than the traditional way of relying only on an expensive high-fidelity model.
  • This approach improves project performance by reducing the analysis time and freeing up resources for activities, such as integration and testing, that can have a major influence on the system's ability to meet the requirements.
  • Successfully applied to JWST and currently on MSR.

Materials' Optical Characterization in the Infrared and Sub-millimeter

Theory & Modeling

  • Modeling, analysis, and interpretation of the dielectric properties of silicon-based materials of astrophysical and engineering interest: silicon nitride, silicon oxide, silicon carbide, bulk silicon and astrophysical dust analogs.

Professional Societies

Sigma Xi - The Scientific Honor Research Society

Full Member

2013 - Present

AIAA - American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Associate Fellow, Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) Technical Committee Member and Publication Sub-committee Chair (2018 - Present)

2011 - Present

ISSNAF - Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation

DMV Chapter Co-founder and Chair, NASA Chapter Co-founder and former Chair

2011 - Present

NAAA - NASA Academy Alumni Association

Vice President of Operations (2010), Application Scoring Committee (2010 - Present), Academy Interview Committee (2010 - Present)

2009 - Present

SPIE - Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers


2014 - 2019

AAS - American Astronomical Society

2011 - 2019

Other Professional Information

Languages: English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German.

Referee service for journals (Nature Scientific Reports, Applied Optics, Optics Express, Optics Letters, Applied Physics B, Journal of Low Temperature Physics, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, Optical Engineering, Systems Engineering, etc.) and conferences (AIAA, AAS - session chair, ISSNAF).

Reviewer: NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) and NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) applications.

Selected Publications


2024. "The planetary protection strategy of Mars Sample Return’s Earth Return Orbiter mission." Journal of Space Safety Engineering [10.1016/j.jsse.2024.04.013] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Formation flying orbits and GNC design in binary asteroid systems." Advances in Space Research [10.1016/j.asr.2023.07.040] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Model predictive control for formation reconfiguration exploiting quasi-periodic tori in the cislunar environment." Nonlinear Dynamics 111 (8): 6941-6959 [10.1007/s11071-022-08214-8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Multifidelity uncertainty quantification and model validation of large-scale multidisciplinary systems." Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems 8 (03): [10.1117/1.jatis.8.3.038001] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Experiment for cryogenic large-aperture intensity mapping: instrument design." Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems 7 (04): [10.1117/1.jatis.7.4.044004] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Infrared properties of high-purity silicon." Optics Letters 45 (17): 4935-4938 [10.1364/OL.393847] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Second-generation Micro-Spec: A compact spectrometer for far-infrared and submillimeter space missions." Acta Astronautica 162 155-159 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.06.012] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Electromagnetic Design of a Magnetically Coupled Spatial Power Combiner." Journal of Low Temperature Physics 193 777-785 [10.1007/s10909-018-1923-2] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Model-based thermal system design optimization for the James Webb Space Telescope." Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems 3 (4): 044202 [10.1117/1.JATIS.3.4.044002] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Submillimeter and far-infrared dielectric properties of thin films." Proc. SPIE 9914, Millimeter, Submillimeter, and Far-Infrared Detectors and Instrumentation for Astronomy VIII 99142W [10.1117/12.2232648] [Proceedings]

2016. "Fabrication and characterization of superconducting resonators." Journal of Visualized Experiments 111 e53868 [10.3791/53868] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Infrared dielectric properties of low-stress silicon oxide." Optics Letters 41 (7): 1364-1367 [10.1364/OL.41.001364] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "A four-pole power-combiner design for far-infrared and submillimeter spectroscopy." Acta Astronautica 114 (C): 54-59 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2015.04.002] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Analysis and calibration techniques for superconducting resonators." Review of Scientific Instruments 86 (1): 013103 [10.1063/1.4904972] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Tradespace Investigation of a Telescope Architecture for Next-generation Space Astronomy and Exploration." MIT Technical Reports SSL (13-14): [] [Report]

2014. "Micro-Spec: an ultracompact, high-sensitivity spectrometer for far-infrared and submillimeter astronomy." Applied Optics 53 (6): 1094-1102 [10.1364/AO.53.001094] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Optical Properties of Iron Silicates in the Infrared to Millimeter as a Function of Wavelength and Temperature." The Astrophysical Journal 770 (46): 1-12 [10.1088/0004-637X/770/1/46] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. ""Infrared dielectric properties of low-stress silicon nitride" ." Optics Letters 37 (20): 4200-4202 [10.1364/OL.37.004200] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. ""Measuring the Optical Properties of Astrophysical Dust Analogues: Instrumentation and Methods" ." Applied Optics 50 (21): 4115-4123 [10.1364/AO.50.004115] [Journal Article/Letter]