ESA Council Approves Lunar Gateway, Mars Sample Return MOUs with NASA

PARIS (ESA PR) — The ESA Council met today in its 290th session and took some important decisions regarding the Executive’s senior management.

Several other decisions were taken in the meeting, in particular:

  • An adaptation of ESA’s decision-making to ensure efficient deliberation and ultimately, business continuity amid the current pandemic, particularly allowing remote participation and voting by Council members
  • The approval of a Memorandum of Understanding with NASA concerning Cooperation on the Civil Lunar Gateway, taking a step towards sending the first European to the Moon 
  • The approval of a Memorandum of Understanding with NASA concerning the Flight elements of the Mars Sample Return Campaign, consolidating the ambitious schedule towards the first-ever ‘round trip’ to Mars with return of pristine martian soil samples
  • In order to prepare the ESA/EU Council at ministerial Level (Space Council) to be held in November 2020, the ESA Council adopted a resolution to set-up a Council Working Group.

ESA’s 22 Member States approved the Director General’s proposal to appoint Elodie Viau as Director for Telecommunications from 1 September 2020, succeeding the current director, Magali Vaissiere.

For the past 12 years, Elodie Viau has worked for SES, one of the world’s leading satellite owners and operators, based in Betzdorf, Luxembourg. She is currently Vice-President for Technology Program Management. She has spent much of her career working at the company’s base in Toulouse, France, and has also worked for Arianespace.

A French national, she gained her Master’s degree in telecommunications from Université Paris-Sud in 2007 and holds further qualifications from the International Space University and the Open University in the UK.

Elodie Viau succeeds Magali Vaissiere, who has held the post for the past 12 years. During that time, Magali Vaissiere led ESA’s initiatives supporting the competitiveness of European industry in the worldwide commercial telecommunications market, including the development of new technologies and working practices, and the incorporation of space assets into new products and services. These initiatives have generated up to €20 for every €1 invested by Member States.

The Council also approved a two-year extension of the contract for Günther Hasinger, Director of Science until 31 March 2023.

Finally, the Council decided to launch the process for the recruitment of a new Director General to succeed to Jan Wörner whose contract term is ending on 30 June 2021.

The Vacancy Notice for the new Director General is being published on ESA channels and will open an application period of two months which should lead to the selection of the Agency’s new Director General by the end of the year.

The next session of the ESA Council is scheduled for October. The new ESA Council chair will be Ms Anna Rathsman (SE). Nominated as Vice-Chairs are Mr Renato Krpoun (CH) and Mr Juan-Carlos Cortés (ES).

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int