The first stones of ESA’s new establishment in the UK were laid in a ceremony today by Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, UK Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts and the first ESA Director General, Roy Gibson.
While placing one of the stones in a sculpture that will later grace the establishment’s courtyard, Mr Dordain revealed that the first building of ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, or ECSAT, scheduled for completion in 2015, will be named after Mr Gibson.
He also announced that 2014 will see celebrations of 50 years of European cooperation in space, with major events in all ESA establishments, including HQ and ECSAT, as well as in the capitals of some Member States.
Mr Dordain noted: “I stand here next to the man who drove ESA at the very beginning of its history, and with the symbolic representation of ESA’s future building.
"The UK space sector has been around for as long as ESA, and it is fitting that our first ever Director General hailed from this country, and ECSAT is marking the renewed ambitions of the UK in using space for competitiveness and growth, in particular within the ESA framework.
“Fifty years of Europe’s cooperation in space and the 50th anniversary of the birth of the two predecessors that led to ESA is an important milestone, and I am happy to mark it in such a way.”
Mr Dordain then presented Roy Gibson with the future building’s plaque bearing his name, and a calendar representing the achievements of ESA.
Roy Gibson responded: “I am honoured to be part of this celebration of ESA in the UK.
"It has been a particular pleasure of mine to see how ESA has developed over the years, and particularly in recent times how the UK government is working more closely with ESA.”
The Roy Gibson Building is set to be one-of-a-kind in the UK, with almost zero carbon emissions and a dedicated area open to the public, emphasising its cooperative nature on the campus. This also makes it unique as an ESA centre.
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, added: "The UK is taking a stronger role in the European Space Agency and this new centre is an embodiment of our intention to work more closely together.
"I have high hopes that this centre will allow us to maximise the potential of space for future economic growth, keeping the UK at the forefront of the global science race."