Back to Index French German

N° 2–2013: ESA pays tribute to Mr Erik Quistgaard

5 March 2013

ESA pays tribute to Mr Erik Quistgaard who passed away on 11 February, aged 91. Mr Quistgaard was ESA’s second Director General, serving from May 1980 to August 1984.

Born on 3 June 1921, Mr Quistgaard graduated with an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Mr Quistgaard occupied a number of leading positions in industry, acquiring experience in the European and American car manufacturing and shipbuilding industries. Before joining ESA, he was managing director of the Danish shipbuilding company OLS, had served as general manager and Director of Volvo in Sweden, and before that spent three years with the Chrysler Corporation in the USA.


He took up the post of Director General of ESA on 15 May 1980 at a time when the ongoing Agency programmes such as Ariane and Spacelab were nearing completion and when there was a need to define a plan for the next steps of Europe in space as well as to determine the Agency’s future role.


Major milestones during Mr Quistgaard’s terms of office were the first Spacelab launch with Ulf Merbold (D), ESA's first astronaut on board the US Space Shuttle from 28 November to 8 December 1983, which marked ESA's entry into human spaceflight activities, the first use of Ariane by a commercial customer (Intelsat) and the successful launch of ECS-2 by an Ariane-3. In addition, under his stewardship, the development of Ariane-4 was approved in 1982, while in the field of space science, the Giotto and Hipparcos projects were started.


Those who had the privilege and pleasure of working with him appreciated not only his commitment and his efforts to advance the activities of the Agency but also his warm personality, for which he will be greatly missed.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is 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 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU and is discussing an Agreement with the one remaining (Bulgaria). Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working actively with the EU, for the implementation of the programmes Galileo and Copernicus.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Learn more at

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office


Tel: Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99

Fax: Fax: +33 1 53 69 76 90