First activities at my “new” Space Agency

It is already a week since I “moved” from the german space agency DLR to ESA, and it was full of different activities and impressions: after landing in Orly/Paris on 1 July, I met Jean-Pierre, who drove me first to ESA Headquarters and, shortly after, to my new apartment. The process one has to go through to rent an apartment in Paris would be worth writing a special guidebook on all on its own. Anyhow, I am lucky to have found a nice flat in walking distance, with nice landlords too.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner. Image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

ESA Director General Jan Woerner in his freshly renovated office, 7 July 2015. Image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Then I assumed my position as ESA Director General (DG): my expectations were that there would be a quiet transition phase in which I could learn about the day-to-day requirements on an ESA DG. But I was wrong: from the very first moment there were different tasks to be fulfilled, ranging from meetings on important issues to signatures of ESA documents.

I also began implementing my plan to be in regular direct contact with the ESA workforce: at ESA Headquarters (Paris) in rue Mario-Nikis on Monday, at HQ Daumesnil on Tuesday, and later that week at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany. In these encounters I was able to talk to ESA staff and contractors and had some initial interaction and discussions with them. Although it is clear that I am the newcomer on the scene, the discussion was intensive, challenging and, most importantly, positive and creative. We discussed the general position of ESA as well as special issues in daily working life.

The first week also brought a first official visit to an ESA Member State, Luxembourg, to discuss the future development of ESA in the rapidly changing world of space.

The second meeting with an ESA Member State took place in context of a breakfast with the French Minister for the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, Emmanuel Macron, followed in the afternoon by an opportunity to speak at a public hearing at the French National Assembly.

ESA Headquarters in Paris, rue Mario Nikis. Image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

ESA Headquarters in Paris, rue Mario Nikis, July 2015: “We are renewing this space” Image credit: ESA – J. Woerner, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Looking back after only a week – which of course is not the best point of time to do so – I am very thankful for the positive welcome and reception. However, I know that first impressions might not be a full mirror of the future, as a lot of matters are awaiting clear actions. In this sense, the road sign one can currently see in front of ESA Headquarters in rue Mario Nikis reads like an omen: It says “We are renewing this space”.



  • JEDI says:

    Focus on the most Important target : the CM 2016

  • Vanhorenbeek Nicole says:

    Very interesting your first activities at ESA !

  • April Kruger says:

    Way to hit the ground running, Jan. Hope your new life and role bless ESA, yourself and those you direct with sound, ethical decisions based from peace and good hard work. Thank you for the insightful blog, and refreshing transparency!

  • Roberto says:

    Great speech today at Harwell (15 h.), definitively a new spirit, and a new character. We look forward to work with you. And please hard code the “orange deal” to our teams (Dutch polder model for negotiation).

  • Margarita says:

    I’m delighted that you found the time, in a hectic first week, to write this blog post for us, Jan.

    I echo what April Kruger wrote above, on thanking you for your transparency and in wishing blessings that you work and decisions will be ethical and sound.

    Always remembering that while we look to and aim for the stars, that our home and roots are in this precious and vulnerable little planet.

  • Jacqueline says:

    After 14 years working for ESA, for the first time I see a photo of the DG’s office – with a DG working in it. Also, I am happy that somebody told you that there are also contractors working for ESA. Keep it up – this place, indeed, does need renovation…
    Jacqueline – contractor

  • Lothar says:

    Wow, what a heap of work in one week!
    Good to see that you continue your tradition of posting your thoughts and ideas. I am curious about your next post. Good luck and success.

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