Herwig Laue arrived at ESOC in 1967 as a student intern, and retired in 2004 as the head of ESOC's Management Support Office. He says: "All engineering, in the end, is imperfect - we had problems, but we always found a way out. Our secret? It was our professionalism, which helped us enormously to handle any situation."
Audio recollections of Herwig Laue (stream mp3)
Herwig Laue is from Germany, and - while studying mathematics at the local Technical University - was out riding his bike in Darmstadt one day in 1965, when he stumbled upon a new construction site and read a sign announcing the new building of ESDAC - the European Space Data Centre. "I didn't have the faintest idea that this site would become the centre of my professional life," he recalls.
He first came to ESDAC in the summer of 1967 as a graduate student intern, just before ESOC was formally inaugurated in September that year.
He returned regularly for student work terms in the flight dynamics division, landing a position as a contract engineer after graduation. In 1972, he became a permanent staff member, specialising in spacecraft attitude control. In 32 years, he held a variety of posts, serving at one point as Ground Segment Manager responsible for the Hipparcos and ISO operations. From 1998 to 2000 he was responsible for financial management in ESA’s Technical Directorate with offices in both ESTEC (Netherlands) and ESOC; in 2004, he retired as head of the Management Support Office, where he was responsible for developing plans, policies and budgets.
When he joined ESOC, the 'old timers' still sometimes remembered the establishment as 'ESDAC' - the name was changed when its mandate was widened to include not just data processing, but operation of the European Space Research Organisation's (ESRO) first series of spacecraft. Later, in 1975, ESRO combined with the European Launcher Development Organisation to form ESA. "There was a very good feeling when we changed from ESRO to ESA; now we were an organisation with a solid mandate - to be the space agency of Europe," he says.
He is now retired and living near Darmstadt, and is active in the Association of Retired ESA Staff.
Last update: 13 December 2007