A-Z of European Space

The first decades: 1959-1994

  • 1946 – degree in Electrical Engineering from the Politecnico di Torino
  • 1947-1962 worked at the Central Radio Laboratory of Magneti Marelli Company, Director from 1955 to 1962
  • 1962-1972 – Professor of Electrical Communication at the Politecnico di Milano, Rector from to 1969-1972
  • 1979-1980 – President of the European Society the Training of Engineers
  • 1990-1993 – Chairman of ESA
  • 1998 – Emeritus Professor at the Politecnico di Milano
  • 1960-1990s– At various times, President of the Scientific Council of the Centro di Studio sulle Telecommunicazioni Spaziali for the Italian CNR, President of CSELT (Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni), President and is Honorary President of Italtel.

In 1962 Carassa left industry for academia, becoming Professor at the Politecnico di Milano, where he formed the Centro di Studio per le Telecomunicazioni Spaziali (Centre for the Study of Space Telecommunications) of the Italian National Research Council. His research in Milan focused in particular on telecommunications through satellites and he proposed and guided the experiments on propagation and communication conducted for the Italian satellite Sirio, launched in 1977.

In June 1990 he was elected as Chairman of the ESA Council, serving until June 1993.

  • Italian diplomat and Italian Ambassador to San Salvador (1952) and South Africa (1959)
  • 1962 - Secretary General of COPERS
  • 1964-1971 - ELDO Secretary General and Secretary General of the European Space Conference

Carrobio di Carrobio was the first Secretary General of the COPERS Preparatory Group and became ELDO Secretary General on its creation in 1964. He shared (together with the DGs of ESRO Auger, Bondi and Hocker) the function of Secretary General of the European Space Conference. In that capacity he oversaw the development of European space policy and the coordination of the work of ESRO and ELDO, leading to their eventual merger to form ESA in 1975.

  • 1981 – Graduated from Ecole Polytechnique, Paris
  • 1981 – Ingénieur Général de l’Armement in the French DGA defence procurement agency, seconded to CNES from 1983
  • 1983 – Graduated from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, Toulouse
  • 1983-1987 – Lectured at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, Toulouse
  • 1985 – Selected as French astronaut and began training
  • 1987 – Graduated as Flight Test Engineer from Ecole du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Réception, Istres
  • 1987-1992 - Directed the parabolic flight programme at the Flight Test Center in Brétigny-sur-Orge
  • 1992-2018 – Joined the ESA Astronaut Corps, ESA Astronaut on three missions from 1994 to 1999
  • 2006 – CEO of Novespace, subsidiary of CNES in charge of parabolic flights on the Airbus A310 Zero-G aircraft

Clervoy was selected for the second group of French astronauts in 1985 and from 1987 to 1992 he directed the parabolic flight programme at the Flight Test Center in Brétigny-sur-Orge, and provided technical support to the European human space programme within the ESA Hermes crew office in Toulouse.

In 1992, he joined the ESA astronaut corps and was seconded to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, to qualify as a Space Shuttle mission specialist. He flew twice on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and once on Discovery (on STS-66 in 1994 for the ATLAS-3 mission; on STS-84 in 1997 to the Mir space station; and on STS-103 in 1999 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope). Between spaceflights, he was assigned as flight software verification lead in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory and as robotics display design lead for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

From 2001 to 2008 he was Senior Advisor Astronaut for ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle in Les Mureaux, France. In 2008, he was a member of the selection board for the new ESA astronaut class, and coach for their first year of training. He retired from ESA in 2018.

  • 1957 – Degree in Engineering from the University of Liège
  • 1957-1958 – Research Assistant at the University of Liège
  • 1958-1963 – Fulbright Scholarship and PhD at the California Institute of Technology
  • 1963-1964 – Worked on laser technology at the Royal Military Academy, Brussels
  • 1964 – Joined ESRO as Project Engineer in the Large Astronomical Satellite Division
  • 1977 – Head of the ESA Telecommunications Programmes Department
  • 1990-1996 – ESA Director of the Telecommunications Programmes
  • 1997-1998 – ESA Director of Applications

On joining ESRO Collette contributed to the definition phases for the scientific satellites launched between 1972 and 1977 (HEOS-2, ESRO-4, COS-B and GEOS-1). In 1966, he coordinated the feasibility studies relating to telecommunications satellites and from 1970 was involved in the leadership of the first phase of the European telecommunications programme.

In 1977 became Head of the Telecommunications Programmes Department and was later was appointed Director of Telecommunications Programmes in 1990, at a time when the Data Relay and Technology Mission Programme led to a major reorganisation of the Directorate.

After the departure of Emiliani Lanfranco, Director of Observation of Earth and its Environment, Collette was appointed as interim Director of Applications. He was succeeded by Claudio Mastracci in November 1998. The success of the ESA projects developed under the Applications pillar owe a lot to the Earth Observation Strategy and Living Planet Programme that Collette contributed to defining.

  • 1959 – Member of the Organising Committee for the International Federation for Information Processing, representing the Swedish Society for Information Processing
  • 1960s – Director of the UN Intergovernmental Bureau for Informatics, a transformation of the International Computation Centre in Rome established by UNESCO
  • 1964-1967 - Director of ESDAC, ESOC’s European Space Data Centre (which became ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre, in 1967)
  • 1930s? – Doctorate at the University of Paris
  • 1941-1959 – Director of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris
  • 1941-1972 – Professor in the Faculty of Sciences of Paris
  • 1957-1962 – Director General of CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research
  • 1958-1960 – President of the Société astronomique de France
  • 1962-1967 – President of CNES, the National Centre for Space Research
  • 1967-1969 – President of the Bureau des Longitudes
  • 1967-1971 – President of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
  • 1972-1974 – President of the International Council for Science

Coulomb was a was a French theoretical geophysicist, author, teacher, and international leader in geophysics and space science, whose work extended over all of geophysics. As President of the fledgling CNES, he was able to develop and expand to the point where it became a source of major European space ventures.


  • 1967 - trained as a lawyer (doctoral thesis on space flight and international law), in 1968 joined Swiss government as expert on space affairs in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
  • 1971-1980 - Permanent Swiss Delegate to ESRO and ESA
  • 1980-1997 - Head of the Scientific Affairs Section of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and from 1988, the department's Advisor for European Space Cooperation
  • 1998-2002 - Head of Swiss Space Office
  • 1988-2002 - Head of the Swiss Delegation to ESA

Creola was the longest serving Council member in the history of ESRO and ESA and served as Chairman of many committees and boards: the Administration and Finance Committee from 1972 to 1975, the Legal Working Group on the ESA Convention in 1974 and 1975, the Industrial Policy Committee from 1975 to 1978, the Ariane Programme Board from 1978 to 1981, the Space Debris Working Group in 1989, the negotiations on the renewal of the Ariane production arrangement from 1989 to 1990 and the Long Term Space Policy Committee from 1993 to 2002. He also served a term as Vice-Chair of the ESA Council from 1987 to 1990.

See also: Interview with Peter Creola from the Oral History of Europe in Space Collection

  • 1952 – Doctorate in physics from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris
  • 1950s-60s – Professorship and teaching positions at the Université Pierre e Marie Curie (Paris IV) and the École Normale Supérieure (ENS)
  • 1966-1976 – Various positions in French CNRS: Scientific Director for Physics (1966); Director General (1969); General Delegate for Scientific and Technical Research (1973)
  • 1976-1984 – Head of Centre National d’études spatiales (CNES), the French Space Agency
  • 1979-1984 – Founder and Chairman of the European Science Foundation
  • 1981-1984 – Chairman of ESA Council
  • 1984-1986 and 1988-1993 –Minister of Research in the French government
  • 1994-1996 – Chairman of CERN Council
  • 1998-2000 – President of the Fondation de France
  • 2001-2003 – President of the French Academy of Science

An enduring theme throughout Curien’s long and varied career in science, politics and management was his promotion and development of a European scientific cooperation. As President of the Centre National d’études spatiales (CNES), he oversaw the development of the Ariane launcher, which successfully completed its maiden flight in December 1979 and the creation of Arianespace. Regarded as the father of the European space programme since that time, Curien also headed ESA as Chairman from 1981 to 1984, and his diplomatic skills played a critical role in the creation of ESA's flagship space science programme at the meeting of Council at Ministerial level in Rome in 1985. The landing site of the Huygens probe (on Saturn’s moon Titan) was named the Hubert Curien Memorial Station in honour of his contribution to European space.

See also: interview with Hubert Curien from the Oral History of Europe in Space Collection