Space | 03. November 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner

A very eventful time…

Philae landet auf dem Kometen
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The Rosetta mission's Philae lander touches down on the comet (video still from 'Mission into the Unknown II - the Philae Comet Lander').

"If everything is under control, you are just not (driving) fast enough." This quote is attributed to several people, including, for example, racing driver Stirling Moss. This is scant reassurance these days, at a personally challenging time marked by so much activity. For one thing, it is time to continue working on the strategic orientation of DLR that was published in summer and, above all, to discuss and draft the parts that are still missing, specifically the alignment of the various technical and structural areas. Furthermore, the consequences at the organisational level – the governance – need consideration. In parallel with this important internal work, external activities are requiring our full attention and the associated commitment.##markend##

At present, the external activities include subjects such as Alexander Gerst's Blue Dot mission on the ISS, the imminent landing of Philae on Comet 67P, the final landing of the parabolic flight aircraft in Cologne, as well as aspects related to ESA. While the first three areas are a combination of joy, enthusiasm and excitement in a most pleasant way, the subject that attains to ESA is suitable for causing sleepless nights. The preparations for the ESA Ministerial Council are unfortunately still not going in such a way that we can be sure that the decisions made in Luxembourg will be satisfactory. Very different visions are being presented by the various ESA member states, led by Germany and France, regarding both launchers and the question of the future of the International Space Station. It would surely not be reasonable to use horse trading as a basis for negotiations. Spaceflight is not suited to market trading. Rather, solutions must be found that combine and meet the various interests of the member states in the best possible way. In this regard, we have submitted proposals. In the coming weeks, we will see whether there will be jointly supported solutions, or whether the final Ministerial Council during the period of office of the current General Director, Jean-Jacques Dordain, will be a massive failure for ESA.

This addresses another subject – the selection of the next ESA Director General. In coordination with the German Federal Government, I have submitted my documents and so am entering the running. The profiles of the candidates still under discussion are very varied, and the selection will therefore be a decision on the future development prospects for ESA. At a time when the paradigm shift in spaceflight towards more commercialisation cannot be denied, the positioning of the agencies at the national and European level is a cause for particular tension.

However, I also regard the process from the personal perspective that I currently hold an office the like of which is found nowhere else in the world. Without wanting to go into detail, I want to say that it is all a matter of balancing responsibility with personal satisfaction.


About the author

The ‘Jan Wörner’ blog was written by Johann-Dietrich ‘Jan’ Wörner during his time as the Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Jan Wörner wrote all the posts himself and then sent them to DLR Corporate Communications for editing, picture research and online publication. to authorpage