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Austrian Aschbacher to become ESA’s new Director General

Josef Aschbacher. Photo: ESA

Luxembourg, 26 November 2020. – The Austrian Josef Aschbacher, Director of Earth Observation at the European Space Agency (ESA), has been nominated as next ESA Director General, following the German Jan Wörner, several media reports and tweets said.

The nomination is expected to be endorsed by the ESA Member States mid-December.

“I need to hold my breath until Election Day on Dec 17,” Aschbacher said in a tweet.

The Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten said that Aschbacher gained more than the necessary two-third majority in an ESA-internal vote, against his competitors from Spain and Norway.

Anna Rathsman, Chair of ESA’s Council and Director General of the Swedish National Space Agency, would only propose one candidate, Josef Aschbacher, the newspaper said.

“It would be a little sensation that a small country like Austria, which only contributes around two percent to the ESA budget”, sends the Director General, Salzburger Nachrichten said.

Aschbacher began his career in ESA in 1990 as a young graduate. He worked in Thailand, Italy, and France, where he became program coordinator for Copernicus in 2001. In 2006, he became Head of the Copernicus Space Office, where he led all activities for Copernicus. In 2014, he was promoted to Head of Programme Planning and Coordination at ESA’s European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), responsible for planning ESA’s Earth observation programs.

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