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Monday 16 May 2016

The power of the little things in the big things

The title of this blog might seem a bit silly, and even phrased poorly.

Perhaps it is but I wanted a simple title to convey something which in my view is really simple and yet so powerful.

It is an undeniable fact that what makes machines works is the care taken in making sure that all the details are right. No machine, no grand scheme, no space mission, no policy would work if the details were not just right. 

So, yes, the details are important. Why else would there be the expression: the devil is in the details? An expression, by the way, that exists in more than one language.

But the details too have their place. And this place is none else than the refinement of the grand scheme of things.

The greatness of  a plan lies both in the goal that it aims for and in the details towards making it happen. An overarching aim, a worthy objective, a vision, if you will, of what should be striven for.
Dreams and responsible action are big goals - the details make them reality.

Details without a goal are just as lost and lonely as a goal without details.

In space activities all of this applies. And knowing when to address which with adequate intensity is of the utmost importance. Space activities are not one-offs. Each fits, each should fit in a grand scheme. No detail should be wasted by fighting by itself - wandering aimlessly in the vastness of vacuum.

For this reason it is big objectives that we need:
 - sustainability of space activities - clean space both in technology and through policies
- space situational awareness, space weather, space traffic and capabilities to protect assets and life both in space as well as on Earth - debris - active deorbit, just-in-time measures, asteroids
- space transportation as a seamless chain - from Earth and in orbit - as a service
- service oriented space
- science in all activities

For ESA and for me there is one overarching goal:
European spirit, identity and cohesion

I will be writing more about this.

Sunday 8 May 2016

4 out of 8

Four of eight eggs have hatched.
It is the first time this has happened. Generally one or two do not hatched, but I have never had four unhatched eggs before, i.e. half in this case - not particularly good considering the effort of laying eggs.

The four hatchlings are well, the weather is good and hopefully will stay thus.

I just bought and installed a 2TB internal harddrive so that I can recording the happenings while I am away in Paris.

Paris - I can't believe it has been nearly three weeks. And what a wonderful three weeks. I met many new people and was showered with welcoming converstations with many different people with very different backgrounds and positions.

I have met two Sylvies, many Isabelles, Nicole, Elena, Ulrike, too of course Jean, Alexander, Toni, Franco, Fabrizio, ....the list is long! Ursula is helping me getting my organisational self sorted and Katrin is being a star at keeping me posted and getting me integrated. I saw some of my previous colleagues as well, which always makes me happy.

I had a full SSA day at ESOC last Wednesday thanks to some of Rolf's team members - Clare, Nicolas and Alexander - and I can only say thank you for welcoming me so. I met some of the others over lunch, Holger, Bertrand, ...

Rolf was so kind as to personally give me a mini-tour of ESOC (Darmstadt). I'm looking forward to my trip to ESTEC (The Netherlands) on the 18th. Though I have been there before, this will obviously be different. On the 17th I'll be at ECSAT, Harwell, UK.
I very much enjoyed my first exchange with Magali (Vaissiere). We spoke for about 1 hour and it felt like 10 minutes. It was pleasant but to the point and dynamic - just the way I like things.

I'm loving every bit of ESA with its wonderful complexity and mix.

Amongst the goals I have set myself is that of meeting every single person that works at ESA....

Monday I was briefly at the Space Propulsion Conference for the opening panel session on Space Missions: Mid and Long-Term Policies. I think, should I again be given the opportunity to moderate a panel, I will do it differently. I had asked the panel members to concentrate specifically on cooperation and this they did to my greatest pleasure!

You can check out the opening video if you wish - I cut it myself with the aim of underlying cooperation amonst space fairing nations and actors:

At any rate, I am thrilled to be at ESA and even more because of the job ahead - as Alvaro so nicely put it: "very interesting and plenty of possibilities for the future of ESA". I do truly believe that space is more than just inspiring - space can do so much for humanity and I will certainly do my utmost to contribute as best I can.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

First Day as PA

Arrival at 9 am, welcoming receptionist, ensuing picture for badge, followed by an appointed with a nice person from HR. Followed by many more talks with even more nice people from HR. I had a great morning!
Discovery of my office on the fourth floor. 

Followed by a very pleasant lunch with one of the Directors.
Received a key, met my nice office neighbours.

Followed by a discovery of the various levels of ESA HQ Nikis and of who sits where. Met more nice and friendly people. Asked for some posters to add some colour to my new office. Discovered some hardware along the way.

And finally had some coordination meetings with my new colleagues followed by a high level meeting. All in all, a wonderful first day!

And now I need to finish my lecture for Friday.
PA by day, lecturer by night.

Monday 18 April 2016

ESA Programme Advisor at the ready?

Yes! Programme Advisor to the Director General at the ready!

Yes, I know, this is supposed to be a blog about birdies. Real birdies. Not about some human thinking that because she is taking on a new super cool job, with wonderful new perspectives and responsibilities, that she too can fly just like a birdy.

But I just can't help it. I am so eager to take everything that I have learned so far and put it at the service of ESA and hence of Europe! Working hard is something I am seriously looking forward to. That, together with all the challenges that I know lie ahead.

Tommorrow will be my first day at ESA and I am curious as to what it will bring my way.

Cooperation, new technologies and missions, new paradigms, more cooperation, mediation, meeting and interacting with many new people in many new disciplines, new dimensions, myriads of stakeholders - old and new - ... these only some of the aspects that will keep me busy....

What is there not to be excited about and hence feel like you are flying?

Saturday 16 April 2016

High Season...

...I am thrilled!

A pair of Great Tits is nesting in the wood-concrete nesting box in the north-wing of the garden. 8 eggs so far and the female has started brooding.

I discovered a nest of Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) in the carport.

Hausrotschwanz Brutpflege 2006-05-21-05.jpg
(source: wikipedia)

Two eggs so far. I will check again tomorrow. I have no idea how many eggs they generally lay. It is a mostly moss, twigs, dried grass nest. I will post pictures later.

And I saw a Blue Tit carrying moss into the wooden nesting box in the east-wing.

High season!

Friday 15 April 2016

Birdies come and go

Yesterday was my last day at work, party and everything. I did not think that it would be quite so hard. Or rather, I knew that it would be hard but knowing is one thing, living it is another.

It feels weird leaving ones nest, as I call it, and at the same time it feels right. In some ways it is not different from when I left home for uni. In most ways it is exactly the same thing, the only thing being different, when all the details like space and time are shed, is how I see and relate to the events around me.

It feels weird because it is a strange mix of the things that I made to fill my life and of the people, each very special and unique, that quite spontaneously and of their own accord filled it even more in ways in which things never could.

I was asked if there are any earlier pictures of me at DLR...well here is one:

Back in days... in Kö a PhD Student who had decided that space transportation systems are THE enablers of all space activities.

But this is not a post intended for reminiscence. It is a thank you post and a forward-looking one.

Thank you to all those that pushed me forward not by pushing but just by serving my infinite curiosity and my enthusiam with chances.

The chance for a PhD, the chance to do testing at a testbench, the chance to build up a group and bring people together, the chance to pose questions and find and provide answers, to guide and be guided.....the chance to find solutions in scientific research, the chance to address high-level concerns and again bring even more people together to help decision makers provide the right answers, the chance to question standards and indicate alternative routes, and to then follow these other roads to success and shared joy and pride, the chance to grow and discover through hard work and dedication,....the list is truly endless,....

I, for one thing, I am looking forward to my next destination and even more to the road thereto.

I went to visit my PhD supervisor today - my second PhD - to inform him that I will not be able to continue as my road to ESA will no longer allow me to find the time to do what I had embared upon a few years ago (back then when I had but my group and research in Lampoldshausen): exoplanets and SOFIA.

I entered his office with a heavy heart as I felt that I had to part from something that I did not want to part from. I left happy having discovered a whole new level of interation with him: not student and professor, but rather two people interested in making a seemless chain of innovation in space a reality.


With great power - the power of giving and receiving chances - comes great responsibility.