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.
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.
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”.