Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Nilton Renno
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Nilton O. Renno


Graduate advisor
Program: The Master of Engineering Degree in Space Engineering

Graduate advisor
Program: SGUS-MEng in Space Engineering

Office: 1531C SRB
Phone: (734) 936-0488
Fax: (734) 936-0503


Ph.D., Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering, Unicamp, Campinas, Brazil


Astrobiology, climate, instrument development and thermodynamics

Personal Introduction

The truth never triumphs, its opponents die ("Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus")

Max Planck

Specializations and Research Interests

  • Aerosols and climate
  • Astrobiology
  • Instrument development
  • Planetary science
  • Systems engineering
  • Thermodynamics


Book Chapters (Venus)
Book Chapters (Planetary Atmospheric Electricity)
Chasing Dust Storms
Electric Field Sensor
E-Static Shadows
Google Profile
Intelligent Vision Systems
Mars Science Laboratory
Martian Summer
Martian Water
Mens et Manus
MetNet Missions to Mars
NASA Phoenix Mission to Mars
Research Highlighted on The New York Times
OSU-UM Challenge (Eng 450 Project)
Out of the Blue
Sensorial Hospitality: Light on the Cosmos
Trace Gas Microwave Radiometer
Water and the potential for life on Mars 

Honors, Awards and Accomplishments

  • 2017 University of Michigan Rackham Master’s Mentor Award for “Impressive and Inspiring mentorship.”
  • 2017 NASA Honors Award “For exceptional technical innovations and execution of rover surface operations leading to numerous, profound new discoveries about the ancient climate and habitability of Mars” as part of the MSL Extended Mission-1 Science and Operations Team
  • 2016 Nominated by students to the Golden Apple Teaching Award “Very open and responsive to students and is always ready to give student concerns priority."
  • 2015 NASA Group Achievement Award as member of the MSL Prime Mission Science and Operations Team "For exceptional technical innovations in rover surface operations leading to significantly improved Mars Science Laboratory prime mission performance and science return."
  • 2013 NASA Group Achievement Award as member of the Curiosity Rover " for exceptional achievement defining the REMS scientific goals and requirements, developing the instrument suite and investigation, and operating REMS successfully on Mars."
  • 2013 The Space Foundation John L. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration as member of the Mars Science Laboratory Team “for its aggressive and technologically advanced exploration of another planet."
  • 2013 The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation's Award for Excellence as member of the Mars Science Laboratory Team "for significant accomplishment in space exploration, inspiring global fascination with space."
  • 2013 The National Aeronautic Association 2012 Robert J. Collier Trophy as member of the Mars Science Laboratory Team “in recognition of the extraordinary achievements of successfully landing Curiosity on Mars, advancing the nation's technological and engineering capabilities, and significantly improving humanity's understanding of ancient Martian habitable environments.”
  • 2012 Time Tech’s Best Invention of the Year as member of the Curiosity Mars Rover Team.
  • 2011 Named Ambassador of "Município de São José dos Campos, SP, Brazil."
  • 2011 Co-Investigator, ESA's ExoMars EDM Mission.
  • 2010-2011 Monroe-Brown Foundation Research Excellence Award “For his many accomplishments as a multidisciplinary scientist that include being the leader of the Phoenix Mars Mission’s Atmospheric Science Theme Group that found liquid water on Mars; his work with dust devils that has led to his invention of miniature field sensors used in climate studies; and his outstanding work with both undergraduate and graduate students. Nilton’s Mars atmospheric research has brought him international recognition in both the theoretical and experimental communities.”
  • 2009 NASA Group Achievement Award "For outstanding performance in the planning for the execution of the science for the Phoenix mission.”
  • 2009 NASA Group Achievement Award “For outstanding achievement in the development and operation of the Phoenix spacecraft leading to the first landing in the Martian arctic.”
  • 2009 John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration as member of the Phoenix Mars Mission Team.
  • 2008 Popular Mechanics Magazine Breakthrough Award for Innovation as member of the Phoenix Mars Mission Team.
  • 2008 Popular Science Magazine's 2008 "Best of What's New" Grand Award in the aviation and space category as member of the Phoenix Mars Mission Team.
  • 2008 National Space Club Astronautics Engineer Award as member of the Phoenix Mars Mission Team.
  • 2008 Civil Space Award from the California Space Authority as member of the Phoenix Mars Mission Team.
  • Co-Investigator, NASA's Phoenix Mission to Mars.
  • Lead, NASA's Phoenix Mission Atmospheric Science Theme Group
  • Co-Investigator, NASA's MSL Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS).
  • Co-Investigator, MetNet Mars Missions.
  • Chair & Member of NASA, NRC and NSF proposal review panels.
  • Member, Mars Exploration Rovers EDL Advisory Board.
  • Member, Mars Exploration Rovers Atmospheric Science Advisory Board.

Professional Service

  • 2017-2018      Member National Academies Committee, Strategy to Search for Life in the Universe
  • 2016-2017      Member National Academies Space Studies Board Org Committee, Searching for Life Across Space and Time
  • 2014-2016      Member, NRC Mars Special Regions Review Committee
  • 2014-Present   Member, Northrop Grumann's VAMP Science Advisory Board
  • 2012-Present   Master’s Chair, Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences, U. Michigan
  • 2012               Member, NASA Discovery 2010 Transition Team
  • 2012               Member, NASA Discovery 2010 Downselect Panel
  • 2009-2011       Member, CoE International Programs in Engineering
  • 2007-2011       Member, CoE Multidisciplinary Design Minor Steering Committee
  • 2007-2008       Member, NASA Student Collaboration Program Definition Team
  • 2001-2007       Member, NRC Research Associateship Review Committee
  • 2001-2003       Member, Mars Exploration Rovers Atmospheric Sciences Advisory Committee
  • 2000-2002       Associate Director, Arizona Space Grant Consortium
  • 2000-2002       Chair, University of Arizona Student Satellite Program Steering Committee
  • 2001-2002       Co-Chair, NASA National Space Grant Student Satellite Program Steering Committee


  • Borlina, Caue S., and Nilton O. Rennó, 2017. The Impact of a Severe Drought on Dust Lifting in California’s Owens Lake Area. Nature Reports7(1), 1784, doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-01829-7.
  • Fischer, E.G. M. MartínezH. M. Elliott, and N. O. Rennó (2014), Experimental evidence for the formation of liquid saline water on MarsGeophys. Res. Lett.41, doi:10.1002/2014GL060302.
  • Martinez, G. and N.O. Renno, 2012. Water and Brines on Mars: Current Evidence and Implications for MSL. Space Sci. Rev.(Invited), doi:10.1007/s11214-012-9956-3.
  • Renno, N.O., B.J. Bos, D. Catling, B.C. Clark, L. Drube, D. Fisher, W. Goetz, S.F. Hviid, H. Keller,  J.F. Kok, S.P. Kounaves, K. Leer, M. Lemmon, M. Bo Madsen, W. Markiewicz, J. Marshall, C. McKay, M. Mehta, M. Smith, M.P. Zorzano, P.H. Smith, C. Stoker, S.M.M. Young, 2009. Possible physical and Thermodynamical Evidence for Liquid Water on the Phoenix Landing Site. Geophys. Res., 114, E00E03, doi:10.1029/2009JE003362.
  • Zorzano, M.-P., E. Mateo-Martí, O. Prieto-Ballesteros, S. Osuna and N. Renno, 2009. The stability of liquid saline water on present day Mars. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L20201, doi:10.1029/2009GL040315.
  • Ruf, C., N.O. Renno, J.F. Kok, E. Bandelier, M.J. Sander, S. Gross, L. Skjerve, and B. Cantor, 2009. The Emission of Non-Thermal Microwave Radiation by a Martian Dust Storm. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L13202, doi:10.1029/2009GL038715.
  • Wang, J., F.J.F. Chagnon, E.R. Williams, A.K. Betts, N.O. Renno, L.A.T. Machado, G. Bisht, R. Knox, R.L. Bras, 2009. Why Clouds Follow Deforestation Over the Amazon? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.0810156106.
  • Renno, N.O. and J.F. Kok, 2008. Electric activity and dust lifting on earth and beyond. Space Science Review, 137, 419-434.
  • Renno, N.O., 2008. A general theory for convective plumes and vortices. Tellus, 60A, 688–699.
  • Kok, J.F., and N.O. Renno, 2008. Electrostatics in wind-blown sand. Physical Review Letters, 100, 014501.
  • Koch, J. and N.O. Renno, 2005. The role of convective plumes and vortices on the global aerosol budget, Geophysical Research Letters, 32, doi:10.1029/2005GL023420.
  • Souza, E.P, N.O. Renno, and M. A. F. Silva Dias, 2000. Convective circulations induced by surface heterogeneities.  Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 57, 2915-2922.
  • Renno, N.O., M.L. Burkett, and M.P. Larkin, 1998.  A simple theory for dust devils. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 55, 3244-3252.
  • Renno, N.O., 1997. Multiple-equilibria in radiative-convective atmospheres. Tellus, 49A, 423-438.
  • Renno, N.O. and E.R. Williams, 1995. Quasi-Lagrangian measurements in convective boundary layer plumes. Monthly Weather Review, 123, 2733-2742. 

See CV for complete list of publications.

Updated: 2018-11-05