European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC)

First woman (and former ESSC member) to head German aerospace agency

Pascale Ehrenfreund, renowned astrobiologist, professor of space policy and current President of the Austrian Research Fund (FWF),  is the new Chair of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center DLR.

DLR release

Pascale Ehrenfreund has been a very active and constructive member of the European Space Sciences Committee from 2002 to 2005, and Chair of its life and physical sciences panel. We wish her full success in this new exciting challenge and are confident that strong and constructive interactions will continue to develop between ESSC and DLR in the wake of Pascale Ehrenfreund's appointment.

ESSC member Heiko Balzter recognised for outstanding achievements

University of Leicester Professor and ESSC member Heiko Balzter has been honoured for his outstanding and distinctive achievements. Professor Balzter, of the Department of Geography, is this year's recipient of the Cuthbert Peek Award from the Royal Geographical Society. The award is made 'for advancing geographical knowledge of human impact through earth observation.'


Chair hand-over

Hand-over of chairmanship took place at the Köln plenary meeting on 17-18 November 2014.



Professor Athena Coustenis (left in picture on the left) was handed the Chair from Professor Jean-Pierre Swings (right in picture), who had been chairing the ESSC for two terms since May 2007.

TECHBREAK report published

The final report from the ESF-ESF Forward Look on Technological Breakthroughs for Scientific Progress (TECHBREAK) has just been published.


ESSC member Roberto Battiston is appointed President of ASI

Our colleague Roberto Battiston, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Trento and researcher at INFN, has just recently been appointed as the new President of the Italian Space Agency by the Italian Minister for Education, University and Research.

The ESSC has benefited in the past 2 years from Roberto's broad expertise and large international network. We wish him luck in his new and challenging endeavour and are confident that strong and constructive interactions will continue to develop between ESSC and ASI in the wake of Roberto Battiston's nomination.


Ad memoriam Colin Pillinger

Image credit: ESA

Renowned space scientist Colin Pillinger dies at 70. Prof Colin Pillinger, who had been the driving force behind Britain's Mars lander Beagle 2, suffered a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge and died in hospital on Wednesday.

Prof Monica Grady, a planetary scientist at the Open University and former ESSC member, was one of Pillinger's PhD students and worked with him throughout her career. She told The Guardian: "He was a determined and controversial figure. I crossed swords with him more than once in the 35 years I have known him. But he was enthusiastic, inspirational and never-failing in his drive to promote planetary sciences and the science that would come from missions to the moon and Mars. He was one of the most influential people in my life."

Image credit: ESA - Prof Colin Pillinger and the Beagle -2 probe

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Chair Elect Prof Athena Coustenis endorsed by ESF Governing Council

The ESF Governing Council meeting in Munich on 14-15 April 2014 endorsed the nomination of Prof Athena Coustenis (Meudon Observatory) as the upcoming Chairperson of the European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC), effective November 2014.

Prof Coustenis is Director of Research with the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) of France, working at Paris Observatory in Meudon. Her specialty is Planetology (exploration and study of the Solar System from ground-based and space observations), with extensive experience in that domain, both in Europe and in the US. Her astrophysicist research is devoted to the investigation of planetary atmospheres and surfaces, with emphasis on icy moons like Titan and Enceladus, Saturn's satellites, and Jupiter's Ganymede and Europa, objects with high astrobiological potential.

Prof Coustenis also works on the characterisation of exoplanetary atmospheres. In the recent years she has been leading efforts towards the definition and contributing to the selection of future space missions. She has shown exceptional public leadership in her previous role as the chair of the Solar System and Exploration Working Group within ESA.

Athena Coustenis visits NSSC

On April 11, 2014, Athena Coustenis, the ESSC-ESF Chair Elect visited China's National Space Science Center (NSSC) to seek potential collaborations with the Chinese space science community. Prof. WU Ji, Director General of NSSC, introduced the history of Chinese space science and the current as well as the planed space science missions, including the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), Recoverable Satellite for Microgravity and Space Life Sciences (SJ-10), Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere Coupling Exploration (MIT), Solar Polar Orbit Radio Telescope (SPORT), X-ray Timing and Polarization mission (XTP), Space Millimeter VLBI Array, Einstein-Probe (EP), Search for Terrestrial Exo-Planets (STEP), Advanced Space-borne Solar Observatory (ASO-S) and Water Cycle Observation Mission (WCOM). "International cooperation is fundamental in the Chinese space science missions", Prof. WU emphasized. Prof. Coustenis made an introduction of the current structure, the work mechanism, the mission of the ESSC as well as its strategic plans. Prof. Coustenis expressed her wish to find the common interests with NSSC, which promises possible cooperation opportunity in the future. Both parties exchanged opinions on the roadmap study, mission selection procedures and the possibility to share the expertise.