Elmar K. Jessberger (1943-2017) was a distinguished planetary scientist and educator. He was born in Eisenach/Germany and received his PhD in Physics from the University of Heidelberg in 1971. In his early career at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Elmar focused on the mass spectrometric analysis of noble gases in Apollo samples, meteorites, and terrestrial basalts. Later, his attention turned to interplanetary dust particles, which he studied using proton-induced X-ray spectroscopy.
Elmar analyzed data from impact-ionization mass spectrometers onboard of the Vega 1 & 2 and Giotto space probes, which flew by comet 1P/Halley in 1986. With his expertise obtained, he later contributed to the development of the COSIMA instrument for the European Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
In 1996, Elmar was appointed as a full professor at the Institute of Planetology of the University of Münster, which he later headed until his retirement in 2008. In Münster he established a dedicated TOF-SIMS laboratory for cosmochemistry that supported the analysis of samples returned by NASA’s Stardust mission from comet 81P/Wild. Throughout his career Elmar was driven by curiosity and promoted the use of state-of-the-art laboratory analysis to complement analysis in space. In this spirit, he contributed to the development of multiple space instruments, such as the MERTIS radiometer and spectrometer for the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.
In 1994, Elmar became a Fellow of The Meteoritical Society and in 2005, main belt asteroid 16231 Jessberger was named in honor of his scientific achievements and service to the planetary science community. The Jessberger Award Fund was established in 2019 to honor his memory, and the award is given every other year to a mid-career female isotope geochemist for exceptional scientific contributions to the field.