A-Z of European Space

The first decades: 1959-1994

  • Italian cosmic ray physicist, leader of the postwar Italian nuclear physics community
  • Key figure in the creation of CERN in 1954
  • Co-founder of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics)
  • Chair of General Physics at the Sapienza University of Rome
  • 1978-1981 - Chairman of ESA’s Science Programme Committee
  • President of the Accademia dei Lincei at the time of his unexpected death in 1989

Amaldi’s open letter to a handful of eminent European scientists in 1959 started the process which led to COPERS and to the foundation of ESRO. Once COPERS was established, Amaldi largely withdrew from involvement in the organisational process; with the exception of the establishment of ESRIN, the ESRO research laboratory based in Frascati. ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle was named after him, in recognition of his role as one of ESA’s founding fathers.

  • 1950s – Educated at Nelson College and Christchurch University in New Zealand, Research Assistant at Cornell University in the USA (1954-1955)
  • 1956-1958 – PhD in Physics at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK
  • 1958-1961 –Senior Research Fellow at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, UK
  • 1961-1969 – Head of the general physics group at the Rutherford Laboratory, UK
  • 1969-1972 – Served in the UK Cabinet Office, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government
  • 1972-1980s – Head of the Astronomy, Space and Radio division of the UK Science and Engineering Research Council, from 1979 Under Secretary and Director of Science
  • 1972-1987 – UK delegate to ESRO/ESA
  • 1981-1987 – Vice Chairman (1981-1984) and Chairman of ESA Council (1984-1987)

Atkinson played a major role in the development of the UK’s national space programme in the 1970s and 1980s and was involved in the development of European space policy, first with ESRO and then through ESA from 1972 until 1987. He was in Michael Heseltine's delegation to the Ministerial meetings which led to the creation of the European Space Agency, and played an important role in drafting the new Convention, helping to ensure that space science was formally recognised in it through the Science Programme Committee. While Chairman of the ESA Council, he played a major part in organising the successful meeting of the Council at Ministerial level in Rome in 1985.

See also: Interview with Harry Atkinson from the Oral History of Europe in Space Collection

  • Joined French Air Force in 1930s after his studies
  • 1958 - promoted to General, became Director of the Aeronautics Department at the Ministry of Defence
  • 1962–1972 - Director General of CNES (and Chairman of ELDO Council from 1968-1970)
  • 1972–1973 - ELDO Secretary General

CNES represented the French government on the Councils of COPERS and ELDO and General Aubinière chaired the ELDO Council for three years. In 1972 he left CNES and became Secretary General of ELDO with a mandate to increase its efficiency after technical failures, redefine European space policy to include cooperation with the US in the post-Apollo programme, and develop a new launcher (Ariane). ELDO was later merged with ESRO to become ESA.

  • French cosmic-ray physicist, known for his discovery in 1938 of the Auger effect
  • 1948-1959 - Director of UNESCO’s Science Department and active in the creation of CERN in 1954
  • 1962 - became first President of CNES
  • 1964-1967 - Director General of ESRO

A meeting of scientists in Auger’s Paris home in early 1960 led to the establishment of a study group for European space science (GEERS and subsequently COPERS), of which he was Executive Secretary. He was appointed as the first Director General of ESRO in 1964. In response to the difficulties of the first years, extensive administrative reforms were planned during his tenure, but were only implemented after his departure in 1967.

  • Educated in Amsterdam, Master’s in Mathematics
  • 1950s – Worked at the Mathematical Centre at Amsterdam, a government-sponsored institute carrying out research and consultancy work in pure and applied mathematics
  • 1955 – Joined the Technical University of Delft, where he completed his doctoral thesis in technical sciences
  • 1957-1964 – Scientific Adviser to Bull Netherlands and Engineer Advisor to Compagnie des Machines Bull in Paris
  • Co-founder of the Netherlands Computer Society
  • 1964 – Started working for Philips, becoming Computer Systems Manager (Philips Electrologica BV) and Plans and Programmes Manager for Unidata
  • 1968-1973 – Professor of Project Management and Applied Mathematics as Delft University
  • 1975-1977 – ESA’s Director of ESTEC
  • French engineer and space scientist, based from 1953 to 1961 at the Missile Flight Test Centres in Bretigny and Colomb Bechar
  • General Secretary of the French Committee for Space Activities
  • 1962-1971 - Director for International Affairs at CNES and French representative on various ESRO and ELDO committees. Chaired the CETS Space Technology Committee in 1966.
  • 1972-1976 - both CNES Director General and a French representative to the ESA Council
  • 1976-1986 - Director of ESA's Spacelab programme until 1980, then ESA's Director of Space Transportation Systems
  • 1986-1993 - Chaired the French Association for Aeronautics and Astronautics

After 20 years leading France’s space programme, Bignier moved to ESA in 1976 to direct the European Spacelab. Subsequently, as Director of Space Transportation systems, he was responsible for the Ariane, Spacelab, Space Station, Hermes and Microgravity programmes.

See also: Interview with Michel Bignier from the Oral History of Europe in Space Collection

  • French astrophysicist, associated with the French national space programme since 1959, when he was in charge of launches of the second generation of French Véronique sounding rockets
  • 1962-1972 - Scientific and Technical Director at CNES, oversaw development of the Diamant rocket
  • 1972 - Chief Scientist at CNES, and then advisor the Director General in 1982
  • Participated in NASA's Voyager mission and the Soviet Vega mission to Venus. Principal investigator behind the first launches of experimental balloons in the atmosphere of Venus in 1985.

During Blamont’s period at CNES (and ESRO’s first ten years) he served on ESRO' Launching Programme Advisory Committee, was French delegate to the Scientific and Technical Committee which advised the ESRO Council, member of the Scientific Working Group in his field, the Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology section, and sat on the Geophysics panel.

  • French engineer with degree from the Ecole Supérieure des Télécommunications (Paris 1951) and Masters in Electronics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1952)
  • 1952 – worked from French National Centre for Telecommunications (CNET), became head of the Flight Test department in 1957
  • 1961 – Assigned by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to COPERS as Scientific and Technical Assistant to the Chairman
  • 1964 – joined ESRO as Head of Instrumentation Division at ESTEC
  • 1968 – Became Deputy Director of ESTEC and Head of the Satellite and Sounding Rocket department

When ESRO was formed in 1964, Blassel was appointed to lead the Instrumentation Division at ESTEC in the Netherlands, responsible for the telemetry and remote control equipment on board the ESRO-1 and ESRO-2 satellites. He also led the studies into television distribution satellites for the European Conference for Telecommunications Satellites.

  • 1931 - Professor at the Technical University of Danzig
  • 1934-1937 - Professor at the Technical University of Aachen
  • 1936-1945 - Director of the German Aerospace Centre (Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt)
  • 1945-1954 – Deported to the USSR, worked as a scientist and at the German Aeronautics Collective
  • 1954 - Returned to Germany, Professor in Aeronautical Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Rector from 1958-59
  • 1956 - Chairman of the German Aircraft Committee of the Federal Ministry of Transport
  • 1950s - Member of the German Commission for Space Research of the Federal Ministry for Atomic Energy
  • 1964-1966 - First Chairman of ELDO
  • 1946-1956 – Degree from Uppsala University, Doctorate in Meteorology from Stockholm University
  • 1957-1990 - Director of the International Meteorological Institute in Stockholm
  • 1961 - 1990 – Professor of Meteorology at the University of Stockholm until his retirement in 1990
  • 1964-1967 - Swedish delegate to the ESRO Scientific and Technical Committee and member of the Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology Scientific Working Group (1964-1965); ESRO Scientific Director (1965-1967)
  • Served on various Committees: Vice Chairman of the Science Research Council of Sweden; first Chairman of the organising committee for the Global Atmospheric Research Programme at the World Meteorological Organization
  • 1988 – 1997 - first Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Bolin led the first sounding rocket project for upper atmosphere research at Kronogård, a US-Swedish collaboration, in the early 1960s. He was the Swedish delegate to ESRO's Scientific and Technical Committee in 1964 and 1965, and simultaneously a member of the Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology Scientific Working Group. From 1965 to 1967, he became Scientific Director, the chief scientific administrative position at ESRO. During his tenure the ESRANGE facilities in Kiruna were inaugurated, with the first sounding rockets launched at the end of 1966. He also oversaw the early negotiations with CETS over the introduction of telecommunications projects within ESRO.