The BBC Blogs - Spaceman
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Esa chief launches his third term in Oxford

Jonathan Amos | 23:38 UK time, Friday, 18 June 2010

As chance would have it, Jean-Jacques Dordain's first engagement after being confirmed in his post for another term at the European Space Agency (Esa) was at Queen's College, Oxford.

The director general, who will now hold the reins at Esa until June 2015, had been booked to address the university's European Affairs Society on Friday.

Jean-Jacques DordainAbout 40 Oxford students (and one BBC journalist) came to hear him discuss the future of European space policy in one of those typically English lecture rooms where every piece of furniture was covered in a layer of chalk dust.

Once he'd had the opportunity to lament the World Cup defeat of his beloved France at the hands of Mexico the previous evening ("There is always some catastrophe on the day I am made DG; the first time it was the failure of Ariane 517"), Mr Dordain was able to set forth his goals.

The discussion naturally recalled the many achievements of Esa and, given the location, he dwelled on the role played within the organisation by the UK, one of its founding members.

In particular, he wanted to mention the more enthusiastic stance towards space initiated by the previous government, and the indication from the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition that it wished to maintain that momentum. You might have seen that one of the Labour pre-election funding announcements reviewed and confirmed on Thursday by the coalition was the £12m investment in the Harwell International Space Innovation Centre.

But it was the elements which he said were missing from European space policy that I think will interest most here, and on which you may wish to comment below. There were three omissions, he told his audience:

(1) Europe was now in need of a political dimension to space policy, he argued. He contrasted the slow move to consensus required among a club of 18 equal partners (the Esa member states) with the sort of impetus a US President could give to policy. It was only the likes of a US president or a Chinese premier who could say "we go the Moon", and then direct the effort and the money to achieve that goal.

(2) There needed also to be a "defence dimension" to space policy at the European level, he said:

"In contrast to all the other space powers in the world, defence is not a motor for space in Europe. There are very few defence space programmes. Yes, in the UK, Germany and France; but they're individual programmes - while the biggest space agency in the world is not Nasa; in terms of budget, it is the US Department of Defense. They spend far more money than Nasa."

Defence is always a tricky subject for Esa because the idea that space should be used for "exclusively peaceful purposes" is written into its convention. And yet some of its activities - the Galileo satellite-navigation system, for example - clearly will have a dual-use capability. But adding the defence dimension to European space policy would be something he'd be working on in his third term, he confirmed to me after the meeting.

(3) And the final big omission was crew transportation. As you know, at the moment, Europe has no independent means of getting its astronauts into space. They must hitch a ride on a US or a Russian vehicle. Europe certainly has the technical means to build its own transportation system, but so far Esa member states have baulked at the cost.

Concept Advanced Re-Entry Vehicle

A key factor playing into all three of these missing elements now is the EU and Article 189 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives Brussels "joint competency" with its member states on matters of space policy.

The EU and Esa already work closely together (remember, they are separate legal entities) but that relationship is set to grow much closer... to the point where the EU is going to start initiating many more space programmes of its own, using Esa as its agent or technical adviser.

And that very probably means extra money for space activity, too. If Europe is ever to have its own manned spaceship it may well be an EU-initiated programme that delivers it.

Anyway, I attach my brief chat with the director general on Friday to this posting. He explains his reasons for accepting a third term and the challenges he faces in taking Esa forwards:

"I have decided to stay for another term, first of all because the member states were asking me; because if the member states were not asking me, I would have done something else. But from the point that they were asking me, I have reflected. And I think that Esa will have to change; Esa will have to adapt itself. Esa is a fantastic organisation but it will have to change to be adapted to the new environment, the new [Lisbon] Treaty, but also the international environment and so on. And to change Esa, I think an old guy with some experience who will be in his last mandate anyway - maybe it's better. So, I have decided to stay basically to make sure Esa will be stronger, and will be the tool that Europe needs to be more influential on the international scene."

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Comments

or register to comment.

  • 1. At 02:06am on 19 Jun 2010, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    The ESA is too closely linked to the "EU" which is a load of rubbish.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 07:26am on 19 Jun 2010, Andrew2070 wrote:

    This seems to be describing in vivid detail a plan by the EU to co-opt all aspects of ESA and national space activities. This would be a means of European defence integration which even Labour did not agree to (and most people don't want in the UK) by the back door.

    Also British Ministers have repeatedly said that Galileo is a civilian only system. Does this still stand with the new government? If not, then there are some more possible millions to be saved by axing the UK's involvement in a deceptive project.

    Didn't the British Interplanetary society say "let's go to the moon" in the 1930s? The line we often hear from Europe is that we need more top-down power from Europe when the only or most striking success that comes in space or aerospace is nationally or bilaterally:

    e.g.
    - Miles 52
    - English Electric Lightning
    - TSR2's innovations
    - Black Arrow
    - Concorde

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 08:44am on 19 Jun 2010, mvr512 wrote:

    More powergrabbing by the undemocratic EU under way. Don't these democracy-hating folks in Brussels ever stop?

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 2:49pm on 19 Jun 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Jean-Jacques Dordain is ESA's Director General (again, third time round).
    I wonder with all of this good gentleman’s experience & knowledge about space, the living planet, telemetry and command systems for Space Applications, if he might find the time to give us his thoughts on
    - HAARP
    - SURA, and other
    - such technologies of the same ilk (or confirm whether they exist or do not exist).
    It seems it would ake a man like Jean-Jacques Dordain to shed some independent light on what these programs are really all about, especially in view of the fact that the European Space Agency is seriously "all about peace".
    To foster my case, I quote back to Mr. Dordain: "While the biggest space agency in the world is not Nasa; in terms of budget, it is the US Department of Defense. They spend far more money than Nasa."


    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 10:57pm on 19 Jun 2010, uranous wrote:

    Dear "Space Man",

    As an aerospace engineer, with many years of experience and academic titles, closely linked to the space industry for some years, I was wondering what will you do to change the current status of ESA which is, plainly, a prime example of European bureaucracy and money eating programmes, with minimum return to much needed jobs for the new generations of aerospace engineers?

    what will you do, in the middle of a global unemployment and financial crisis, to tackle the fact that ESA employment rules and regulations are a far cry of an endless tunnel of uncertainty, that only, maybe God himself, is aware how is possible for a normal, talented (young or not) engineering individual to be employed there and at a very high salary position, at the expense of European tax payers?

    i suppose all these could be answered with a start to a description of your CV, dear sir (yes, you the new governor of ESA), it would shine so much needed light to all of us european engineers, poorly positioned outside the scope of "who you know is what counts, not what you know"...

    i strongly believe when things are so bad down here on earth for most of us, humble earth humans, that the "space men" should really be thrown at outer space with the hope that we can continue having a normal life...

    i would still have a great pleasure having a look at your CV however before your....lift off to outer galaxies..

    one day perhaps all of us here in Europe we will realise why indeed, there should be some kind of engineering revolution to bring down the masters behind this space organisation of yours...called European Specific Anonymity in money consuming positions..

    with kindest regards
    an anonymous AeroEarth human

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 09:54am on 20 Jun 2010, callisto wrote:

    Hi Jonathan,

    First, congratulations on an excellent post - objective and concise.

    Second, congratulations to J-JD on election to his third stint as DG. This man has a great enthusiasm for space and is a natural for the position. We in the propulsion fraternity seem to be eminently capable of seeing the big picture, as opposed to other areas of satellite engineering, as is illustrated by the number of propulsion men, like J-JD, who make it to the top.

    Third: there has always been criticism of ESA for not being answerable to an elected body, just at the whim of nationally elected nobodies. With closer ties to the EU, this changes, but ESA's mandate must not.

    For Europe to compete on the World stage (vs. China, US and Russia), some defence facet (as opposed to military) should be accepted and Europe should not try to be exclusively civilian. Remember civilian defence is a military role (like it or not) and in these days of global insurgency, stealth terror and wanton destruction of society, we (civil society) needs as much protection as possible.

    I still believe the way forward in space is a collaboration with all space-faring nations to develop our collective knowledge outward for the survival of mankind. A strong ESA puts Europe at the top table of this objective and defence is a proton in that nucleus.

    To all the nay-sayers I say this: the European Space effort must be centrally managed, or national manifests will rule and we will go nowhere. The management must be effective to work within Europe and with other World powers. That is ESA's job and the EU controls it for the European taxpayer. If the European 'spaceman' has a rifle under his bed, all the better.

    To Uranous I would say this: you may think you're good, fella, but there are better. There are only a small number of jobs in ESA available at any one time. Bury your bitterness and keep trying. There is always CNES, DLR, ATI, etc who will be glad to talk to you.

    Complain about this comment

  • 7. At 12:06pm on 20 Jun 2010, Andrew2070 wrote:

    Who's asking "Europe" to compete on the world stage? Mainly European politicians and not the public as far as I Can see.

    National projects foster more interest and therefore should generate more involvement and rewards. Compare the interest in Cassini and Beagle 2 for instance. Collaborations in my view (and I understand Colin Pillinger's) should be on a case by case basis and never subjugated to a top-down distant elite.

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 02:35am on 21 Jun 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    Andrew2070 wrote:

    "Who's asking "Europe" to compete on the world stage? Mainly European politicians and not the public as far as I Can see."

    That's what the EU and other pro-European institutions are all about, attaining power and trying to prove themselves superior to countries such as, and especially, America. It explains much of the anti-Americanism behind pro-EU and pro-European institution propaganda and the constant obsession on what America has accomplished and what it is currently doing. It explains anti-American signs such as this:

    http://bretwaters.com/socialprofit/?p=342

    when it would be quite obvious to anyone that knows anything about technology that it would be certain that plenty of American technology went into making such a car possible.

    It's the same sentiment that was expressed at the debut ceremony of the Airbus A380, a plane with around 50% of its value coming from American technology and American parts and suppliers. Never mind that fact lets just take more shots at the Americans.

    It's no surprise that any new or major project that America starts the Eurocrats and the Europhiles always start, or try to start, their own competing version ala the Soviet Union, including the anti-American propaganda to try and prove their superiority.

    Individual countries like France and Germany can not compete on their own so they are doing their best to try and convince, fool and coerce the citizens of European countries to create a European equivalent of a country like America, which in the end is impossible.

    "National projects foster more interest and therefore should generate more involvement and rewards. Compare the interest in Cassini and Beagle 2 for instance. Collaborations in my view (and I understand Colin Pillinger's) should be on a case by case basis and never subjugated to a top-down distant elite."

    The ultimate goal is for the EU to take control of the most valuable assets and capabilities that each country has to offer. The Eurocrats and the Europhiles can not achieve their power hungry goals without that. They are more and more becoming and acting like the Soviet Union.
    Beware.

    The last thing America, or any other country, should be doing is getting involved in joint space or defense missions with them.

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 7:28pm on 21 Jun 2010, SimonLondon wrote:

    I think their is a big difference in merging our space industry and merging our governments. ESA makes a lot of sense, as no individual European nation has a hope of doing any thing meaningful on its own. I am pro EU, but would prefer for ESA to be separate from the EU. If the EU wants to pay ESA to do space things for it fine, but they must remain separate entities. I also think the military should not be involved either. Europe will never have continental leaders that can say, we should go to the moon. National politicians always retain power, look at the EU president for evidence of the fact that this does not work. On the third point I do agree. Soon private American companies will be launching people in to space, Europe can not rely on others forever.

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 8:09pm on 21 Jun 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    Yes the great bureaucracy of the space industry. Riddle me this, why does space research move at such a glacial speed. (a great joke given that space research is/has slowed down so much while the glacial movement is speeding up.)

    Why do projects in the early 60's look more advanced than anything we are doing now? How come they were expecting to have a man on Mars by the 1980's ? How come their plan was for the mission to take a month to get there while we are planning for it to take 18? Maybe they were thinking of more advanced technologies back then like nuclear rockets, or even had them in development. They also knew about something we've forgotten called economy of scale. There's no technical reason why the huge space stations, moon bases, or manned planetary exploration were so difficult its all just money and the same old politics.... Sigh...
    Maybe in 50 years we will discover life on one of those outer watery moons and they'll be stirred into real impetus. I'll keep watching. :)

    Complain about this comment

  • 11. At 1:36pm on 22 Jun 2010, MacTurk wrote:

    First, there is a philosophical question here. How is it, no matter what the issue is, that the response time of the knee-jerk Europhobes posting their septic anti-EU comments on every comment thread on the BBC's website is practically zero?
    Andrew2070 gave a list of apparently superior projects, examples of the "striking success that comes in space or aerospace".
    a) Miles 52. Canceled by the British government.
    b) English Electric Lightning. Pretty good, but very short endurance/range, hence supplemented then replaced by the McDonnell-DouglasPhantom.
    c) TSR2's innovations. Again, a great potential, cancelled by the British government.
    d) Black Arrow. Cancelled by, guess who, the British government. As quoted in Hill, C. N. (2001). "Black Arrow". A Vertical Empire: The History of the UK Rocket and Space Programme, "Prior to the cancellation of Black Arrow, NASA had offered to launch British payloads for free; however this offer was withdrawn following the decision to cancel Black Arrow". So, this decision was driven, like a lot of them, by craven grovelling to the USA.
    e) Concorde. It worked, it was gorgeous, but its commercial prospects were crippled by the American government.
    How about the Tornado - United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy, or the Typhoon II - Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy?
    The basic point really is that if you want a space program, then Britain is not the place for such, due to the penny-wise, pound foolish, stop/start lack of policy continuity shown by nearly every British government since about 1940. Once the project is cancelled, the institutional knowledge base and the up-to-date skills vanish. The thing with ESA and ARIANESPACE, is that there is continuity of policy, and the skills and knowledge are NOT dissipated.
    Recycling silly conspiracy theories about the "EUSSR" and other nonsense cannot hide the fact that Britain has frequently developed leading edge technology, and blown it either at the development or procurement stage, mainly as a result of governmental non-policy.
    Note to AllenT2: the sign you mention has NOTHING to do with any institution of the EU. If you had read the accompanying article, you would have understood this. "Daimler-Benz is currently using in other countries (see photo above) for their super-efficient SmartCar. The billboard says “German Engineering, Swiss Innovation, American Nothing”. Apparently in other parts of the world advertising a product as having “nothing American in it” is now considered a marketing benefit". Last time I checked, Daimler-Benz was a German car manufacturer. Not, repeat NOT, any institution of the EU. Nor is it a generator of "pro-EU and pro-European institution propaganda". It has found that such marketing works, end of story.

    Complain about this comment

  • 12. At 2:45pm on 22 Jun 2010, jules wrote:

    Cant believe you let EUprisoners comment through, the least he should do is qualify his "rubbish" statement. The EU and ESA are independent, Canada is a member of one and not the other. I am tired of europhobia just for the sake of it. These kind of people just dont understand that people on the other side of the world wouldnt be able to tell the difference between an Englishman and a German if they sat on them, and people on the other side of the world will be calling the shots the second half of this century. We need the ESA, and we need to be an active part of it, and only by maintaining technological prowess will we be taken seriously in the years to come. The rest of the world is catching up and we cant afford to let them overtake. We can not cope alone as Little Englanders, no matter what these people think. Lord Norman Tebbit has gone from insulting the Europeans to insulting the Americans over the BP spill...where will we have to hide ?

    Complain about this comment

  • 13. At 8:01pm on 22 Jun 2010, SONICBOOMER wrote:

    I'm afraid Jules, that such sub 'Sun Reader' stuff as reply 1 is common on even the better BBC blogs like this.
    Like the BBC Blogs very own oil slick, Allen T2, with all this imagined 'Anti American' ravings.

    The fact is that only closer European co-operation has kept much of the remaining major UK capability in aerospace.
    Who runs the UK satellite makers? After BAe a British company, sold them off?
    Who keeps Airbus wing design and production here after BAE-as it became, sold it off?
    EADS and UK engineering company GKN.
    We do it to ourselves.
    The EU have nothing to do it, if some EU states prize high tech industry while successive UK governments thought that casino banking could earn our keep, then who are the smarter ones?.
    The financial crisis came from The White House, Downing Street, Wall Street and the City Of London, not from those Europeans.

    Many of those projects mentioned here in the past, were all too often not commercially viable.
    In military jets, highly expensive ones like TSR-2 while France made and exported all those Mirages.
    Black Arrow, a great achievement, on a tiny budget, but not back in 1971, a viable commercial launcher, unlike the Ariane series.

    My username points to a happy and challenging time on the maintenance of a certain iconic Anglo French airliner retired - only slightly early - in 2003.
    It would not have happened without France.
    The US had little or no negative input, that's a myth.
    The oil crisis of 1973, more opposition to airport noise were the main factors affecting it's sales.

    Back to space, as the US showed with NASA in the Apollo era, you need a central agency to manage the pioneering stuff, a major reason why the Soviet lunar project failed was that they they nothing similar, it was a constant battle between a vast array of government/industrial agencies, the technology fell short too - rather like the TU-144 SST, but after Korolev died in 1966 the only person holding it together at all was gone.
    (Is Allen T2 bothered that mere Europeans like all those Germans played such a vital part in that early, glorious, but unrepeatable period of NASA?)

    I've always found it ironic that it was the capitalist USA, with NASA overseeing it, was the one that so effectively marshaled all those companies to get to the Moon,whilst the in theory more intergrated Soviet system fell apart on the N1/LK project.
    A warning of the larger stagnation that would end the USSR?

    ESA have a lot to shout about, some highly successful planetary probes, satellites, it was ESA who provided Spacelab modules and crews for the Shuttle from 1983 - presumably putting their 'Anti US' attitude to one side Allen?
    As well as co-operation on probes as such as the NASA one orbiting Saturn, which delivered an ESA probe to the surface of Titan, now and for the forseeable future, the farthest outpost of human instruments on an alien surface.
    It carries on, NASA's next big space telescope, the James Webb, will be launched by an Ariane rocket.

    This does rather put into perspective the sillier replies on this blog.

    The time is probably right to adapt the ESA OTV as a basis for a manned capability to service ISS.
    A better choice than the Hermes Spaceplane of the late 80's/early 90's which ESA wisely ditched, it would have had far to little actual capability to get people/supplies to orbit.



    Complain about this comment

  • 14. At 04:30am on 24 Jun 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    "(2) There needed also to be a "defence dimension" to space policy at the European level, he said:
    ....
    Defence is always a tricky subject for Esa because the idea that space should be used for "exclusively peaceful purposes" is written into its convention. And yet some of its activities - the Galileo satellite-navigation system, for example - clearly will have a dual-use capability. But adding the defence dimension to European space policy would be something he'd be working on in his third term, he confirmed to me after the meeting."

    Yes defense is definitely another elephant in the room. In fact almost all space technologies are 'dual' use, only large rockets like the Shuttle or Ariane would be able to lift and deliver the huge multi-megaton 'city killer' warheads of the 50's and 60's.

    But ESA isn't the only problem, the NPT and TBT were written (poorly) in a way that interferes with all space side technology development. The intention was to stop a nuclear arms race in space but the effect has been to slow many other developments as well.
    The treaties were intended to stop the development of orbital bombardment weapons for the reason that they would have first strike capacity. The world has moved on and it has become a totally obsolete hypothesis with the existence of stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, and advanced nuclear submarines all of which also have first strike capacity.
    I know nuclear is an ugly technology for many but in space propulsion the scientific arguments in favor of it are almost overwhelming, especially on safety and capability and cost.

    Complain about this comment

  • 15. At 5:19pm on 24 Jun 2010, Stephen Ashworth wrote:

    I wish Dordain had been replaced. He is not a leader, but a bureaucrat (sorry, Callisto, post 6, I have to disagree with you). There was an interview with him on YouTube last year which has now been removed, presumably because he realised how badly he performed on it. The interviewer was BBC man Stephen Sackur, and he really tore Dordain to pieces. Review here:

    http://www.astronist.demon.co.uk/astro-ev/ae050.html

    Dordain came across as a man full of excuses for cost overruns and bad project management, someone who uses the language of progress and talks about "the future" but has no idea what future technological progress really means. His goal is to spend taxpayers' money and make vague promises, but he has no strategy beyond that. The "crew transportation" issue is a key one: ESA's preference is for a capsule and rocket that would merely emulate the Apollo-Saturn IB system the Americans were using 40 years ago.

    I'm not sorry I missed the meeting!

    Stephen
    Oxford

    Complain about this comment

  • 16. At 04:47am on 27 Jun 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    13. At 8:01pm on 22 Jun 2010, SONICBOOMER wrote:

    "I'm afraid Jules, that such sub 'Sun Reader' stuff as reply 1 is common on even the better BBC blogs like this.
    Like the BBC Blogs very own oil slick, Allen T2, with all this imagined 'Anti American' ravings."

    So "imagined" that it warrants addressing?

    A child with a decent reading level can see the rampant anti-Americanism that exists in these forums.

    "(Is Allen T2 bothered that mere Europeans like all those Germans played such a vital part in that early, glorious, but unrepeatable period of NASA?)"

    Was it "vital," or is that what the Europhile in you wishes to believe?

    You do realize there no such a thing as a country called Europe, right?

    Personally, I couldn't care less what you so-called Europeans do with your own space programs. I'm sure most Americans feel the same way. I wish more so-called Europeans would mind their own business when it comes to our space program.

    "ESA have a lot to shout about, some highly successful planetary probes, satellites, it was ESA who provided Spacelab modules and crews for the Shuttle from 1983 - presumably putting their 'Anti US' attitude to one side Allen?
    As well as co-operation on probes as such as the NASA one orbiting Saturn, which delivered an ESA probe to the surface of Titan, now and for the forseeable future, the farthest outpost of human instruments on an alien surface.
    It carries on, NASA's next big space telescope, the James Webb, will be launched by an Ariane rocket."

    The only reason ESA is involved with NASA is because it can not do more advanced missions on their own. They also wish to ride along on NASA's accomplishments and to exert control and influence on it's programs.

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.