ESA The European Space Agency by Jan Woerner

On 8 July 2019, the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg, represented by Mme Catherine Trautmann welcomed the European Space Agency ESA director general – Jan Woerner as part of the International Space University’s ISU Space Studies Program SSP19 events series open to the general public.

Close to 250 people gathered in the prestigious “Salle des Conseils” of the administrative center to not only listen but interact with Jan Woerner. Jan Woerner is a civil engineer, university professor, and served as chairman of the executive board of the German Aerospace Center. On 1 July 2015, he succeeded Jean-Jacques Dordain, ISU’s former chancellor, as Director General of the European Space Agency.

During one hour he shared in a droll yet serious way, with the SSP19 participants and people of Strasbourg and beyond, ESA’s strategic, policy and operational environment for space science and exploration activities in the years ahead.

He touched on debris, endangering every nation, meteorites, solar flares. And also, the downstream gateway – bringing space down to Earth - a ‘one-stop shop’ service for all downstream opportunities, creating links between new and emerging business sectors and the capabilities being developed in ESA programmes.

Once the floor was given to the audience, dr. Omar Hatamleh, SSP executive director moderated the myriad of questions!

“Do you have a plan to coordinate the Moon Village?” asked one SSP19 participant. Jan Woerner believes that people are grown up enough to work independently and ESA does not intend to be the master of the game.

Another participant wondered why one should not mention the nationality of an ESA astronaut. It is acceptable to say “an ESA astronaut with a French accent for example”! “We better cooperate and work together beyond borders” answers Jan Woerner.

“Why don’t we go to Mars?” asked one member of the audience. “Because on Monday we already go to the Moon!” He cheekily responded! He continues: “We are ready to support such a misson, however what about radiation, how to launch from Mars, the need for a heat shield, such a plan would take more than 20 years. Let’s go stepwise, via the Moon. Humans will go to Mars and beyond.”

SSP19 participant Tessa Morris Paterson thanked Jan Woerner for his outspokenness and honest answers. And Mme Catherine Trautmann concluded: “You speak so frankly that it is an inspiration for us all!”


Picture credits: Marc Dossmann – Photo Expression