The Governing Council of the European Science Foundation (ESF) announced its endorsement of Professor Jean-Pierre Swings as the new Chair of the European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) today.

He is set to replace Professor Gerhard Harendel who will end his term as Chair on 10 May 2007. A Search Committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Bo Andersen, was set up to consider nominations, and found Professor Swings to have “qualifications surpassing what could be required”.

“I am honoured to be at the helm of the ESSC at such an exciting point in its history,” said Professor Swings, who picked out the ambitious Aurora Programme (a series of proposed missions to Mars) for special mention, in addition to ESA’s very successful scientific program.

Professor Swings, 64 next June, completed his doctorate and postdoctoral training at Liege University, Belgium in 1974, after two postdoctoral fellowships in Boulder, Colorado and Pasadena, California. His current research interests include extragalactic astrophysics; very large telescopes and instrumentation; space astrophysics and solar system exploration.

He holds membership in a number of prestigious international organisations including the International Astronomical Union (IAU), where he has held the post of General Secretary, and the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory, where he has chaired several working groups and task forces.

In addition he is the recipient of a number of awards including an award from the International Academy of Astronautics and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (France) in 2005, and has been published in over 170 scientific publications as author or co-author.

Professor Swings said: “A recurrent theme throughout my life and career has been duality: my dual citizenship (Belgium and the United States), dual background as an engineer and as a scientist, and my dual careers in astrophysics and astro-politics.

“On a professional level, this new position as ESSC chair will allow me to dedicate myself even more to European space science policy, and to help bring about progress on a truly multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary scale.”

In his spare time Professor Swings enjoys travelling and having spent extended periods of his life in Belgium, the US, Chile, France and Germany. He has taken advantage of his work-related travel to visit and enjoy many areas of the globe.

Jean-Claude Worms
Head of Unit, ESSC
+33 (0)3 88 71 88