by Dr. Marc Serres, CEO, Luxembourg Space Agency & Head of Space Affairs, Ministry of the Economy
On 26 August 2020, SpaceWatch.Global Editor in Chief Markus Payer started a dialogue about the next generation ESA here. We reached out to representatives in all ESA member states and beyond to get their feedback on that topic. Here we publish their perspectives.
How does the change of ESA DG (Director General) affect ESA’s near-future direction?
I do not expect a revolution of ESA with the change of DG. The European Space Agency is a remarkable organization that has shown quite a stable development of its activities. Even though the DG has a wide margin of manoeuver, at the end, the Member States remain the guarantee of the implementation of the programs and activities of the agency. The incoming DG will have to take into account the changing environment to elaborate his future proposals. The way this sector is evolving is the main driver for change.
How would you like to see the new DG make ESA more globally competitive?
The Agency has shown over the decades its ability to support the development of the European industry. It has led to a certain leadership on the commercial market. We have observed over the last years an acceleration in the development of the commercial initiatives. If we want our companies in Europe to continue and even expand on the commercial market, we have to put in place the right framework to facilitate and encourage this trend. ESA has all expertise and tools to support this development, but will require a certain evolution of its functioning. ESA should act as a supporter rather than a customer to the industry. When it comes to commercial markets, ESA should not dictate what and how the things should be done, but rather act as an advisor to the industry. This will require quite a change in the way the Agency functions: it will have to think like entrepreneurs.
What areas of exploration and R&D should the new DG push for?
It will not be a surprise coming from Luxembourg. Since 2016, we are promoting the use of space resources. We are convinced that being able to use the resources one can find in space will be a game changer in the way to behave in space. It will not only support the exploration efforts, but it will open a new economy in space. Just imagine what could be done if we would be able to manufacture in space. All the practices to design systems will have to be reinvented. It is a fascinating and inspiring topic that opens the door to new discoveries and inventions.
How can we get more private sector, and in general, people involved in Space in Europe?
The interest of the private sector is currently increasing because of the perspective of new markets. One has as well observed that investors are looking to the sector from a new angle. This move is already ongoing and has to be reinforced through a favorable framework to support these new developments. In Luxembourg we have taken several initiatives in that direction in order to help entrepreneurs to realize their projects. And we see also other countries in Europe, as well as the European Union, taking new initiatives that go in the same direction.
When will we see the first European human mission to the Moon?
Human exploration is a challenging discipline and requires a lot of investments. In Europe, this particular field of exploration has not traditionally been the first target, nevertheless, thanks to the cooperation with other nations, Europe has been able to develop this capability. I believe there is a good chance to see one day a European on the Moon, but it may take a bit longer than other space faring nations.
Dr. Marc Serres has been appointed CEO of the Luxembourg Space Agency in September 2018. He is the Head of the Luxembourg Delegation at the European Space Agency (ESA) and represents the country in the Council of ESA. Before joining the Ministry of the Economy in 2013 as Head of Space Affairs, Mr Serres managed the relations with ESA at the Ministry of Higher Education and Research as industrial policy officer during 8 years. These functions as civil servant have been preceded by 5 years of experience in the satellite communications antenna manufacturing industry within the company HITEC Luxembourg S.A., first as Project Engineer and finally as Chief Engineer for satcom products development. He holds a PhD in optoelectronics and a Master in electrical engineering with specialty in microwave frequencies, both from the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Marc Serres is a Luxembourg national.