ESA 1984 Press Release © ESA
New document collection: ESA press releases up to 1992
Fri, 16/02/2024 - 09:35

Today we have opened our first collection of material for 2024, and the latest in the series of historical ESA publications, comprising the press releases issued by the ESA HQ Communications Office from 1980 to 1992.

This rich and varied collection includes all the press releases issued in English, French and German from 1980 to 1992, along with two additional months – August and October - from 1975. The press releases from 1993 to 2002 (in English, French and German) will be opened later as a second tranche. In the meanwhile, ESA English-language press releases from 1993 onwards, are available on the ESA website, where they have been published since 1993 by the HQ Communications Office and from 2003 onwards, by the ESA Communications Department.

As you can see in our space timeline, the 1980s witnessed the realisation of many of ESA’s first programmes (along with the fruition of some that were first began by ESA’s predecessor ESRO in the 1960s). Some of these activities, such as Giotto’s encounter with Comet Halley in March 1986 were featured on news programmes across Europe (and went on to become some of ESA’s most high profile achievements) thanks to the information circulated in these press releases to journalists.

As a result, one of our greatest regrets for this collection is that we are missing all the releases from the years 1988 and 1989. Sadly, this means that we lack the publicity for the 25th anniversary of European cooperation in Space in 1989, and how the momentous events taking place across Europe in the autumn of 1989, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end to a physically divided Europe, may have affected ESA and were covered by its public relations offices.

However, among the many different projects and events covered, some continue to have a particular relevant today: a 1985 conference at ESRIN addressed the theme of artificial intelligence, still being widely discussed here in 2024. The sixth International Research Forum in Information Science Conference was hosted at ESRIN from 16-18 September 1985 and dealt with ‘Intelligent Information Systems for the Information Society’. Sessions included topics such as cognitive psychology in information system design, expert information systems, communication of knowledge through databases, text representation, artificial intelligence and online information retrieval.

The press release also notes the conference’s particular attention to logical, cognitive and social issues, as the “basis for proper organisation and functioning of mediating, indexing and searching structures and techniques in online systems’’. It gives us a tantalising glimpse into discussions of AI some 40 years ago and, in the light of calls for the suspension of training of powerful AI systems by key international tech leaders, an insight into some of the first warnings to be sounded.

Fascinating in its own right, this collection is also a perfect example of how our past can be leveraged to inform, guide and safeguard our future. And more widely, of the crucial importance of archives in preserving such material for use by researchers today and policy makers tomorrow.

Further information

Read more about the press releases and how to browse the collection in SHIP.

Missing press releases

We would be very interested in hearing from any readers with copies of ESA Press Releases from the ‘missing’ years of 1988 and 1989. Or indeed, from anyone who would like to donate material to the Archives. Please contact us at