A few days ago, on December 18, 2014, the Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the appointment of Prof. Dr. Ing. Johann-Dietrich (Jan) Wörner as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years starting on July 1, 2015[1]. The event was not at all a ‚front page news’ for the international media, but it clearly has several important meanings.

In conformity with ESA’s legislation, ESA’s Council (composed of representatives of the Member States[2]) „shall, by a two-thirds majority of all Member States, appoint a Director General for a defined period [...]”[3]. ESA, „Europe’s gateway to space”[4], has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom[5].

ESA’s current Director General Jean-Jaques Dordain term of office ends on June 30, 2015[6]. Under the reference ESA/VN-HO(2014)012, ESA approved on June 23, 2014 the “Director General” vacancy[7]. It’s notable the period of time for about half a year to appoint next Director General and another about half a year until his taking charge.

Jan Wörner is the second German Director General of ESA, being the first Prof. Dr. Reimar Lüst[8], who served from 1984 until 1990[9] (first Director General of ESA took charge in 1975). Jan Wörner was born in Kassel[10] and has been Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) since March 1, 2007[11].

In our opinion, the appointment of Jan Wörner as Director General of ESA is continuing the recognition of German space scientists’ value since the very beginning of the space programs of the humanity, first of all demonstrated by Dr.Wernher von Braun[12] and his „rocket team” for developing the V-2 ballistic missile – which ”was the immediate antecedent of those used in space exploration programs in the United States and the Soviet Union”[13]. From another perspective, by appointing the current Chairman of the Executive Board of DLR as the next Director General of ESA, European Space Agency is trying to achieve „Europe’s changing needs in space”[14] and, possibly, a better integration of national space programs of the member states. The most obvious meaning of the new appointment is that we are speaking about a new episode indicating how vitally important Germany’s role – and Germany’s national power – are, practically in all fields of European affairs.

[1] „JOHANN-DIETRICH WOERNER TO BE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF ESA”, ESA, December 18, 2014, at the Internet address

[2] Article XI, point 1, “Convention for the establishment of European Space Agency & ESA Council. Rules of Procedure.”, ESA SP-1271(E), March 2003

[3] Article XII, 1.a.

[4] „New Member States”, ESA, text available at the Internet address

[5] IDEM

[6] after 12 years of leading the Agency

[7] „EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY. Post of Director General”, ESA, at the Internet address

[8] And the third Director General of ESA

[9] “Past Director General of ESA”, ESA, at the Internet address

[10] The city was „close to becoming the provisional capital of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949” – „Kassel: History of the city”, at the Internet address

[11] “Johann-Dietrich Wörner - Chairman of the Executive Board”, DLR, at the Internet address

[12] Lately he became the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, used for Apollo moon program

[13] “Dr. Wernher von Braun. First Center Director, July 1, 1960 - Jan. 27, 1970”, Marshall Spaceflight Center, at the Internet address

[14] From the qualifications required from candidates, see Footnote 6

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