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IN FOCUS: Launching Europe's ambitions

Jean-Jacques Dordain opened 2013 with talk of discontinuity, but the European Space Agency director general is a man at ease in his second home. While maintaining the French tradition of holding a January start-the-year press briefing, Dordain opened by veering into the metaphysical: "Why am I here?" And, answering his own question, he added: "Because my communications director told me to be here."

Arianne V launch ESA

 ESA   

Europe is looking to develop a replacemnt for its Ariane V heavy launcher

"Here" was new offices in Paris 12th, which ESA has occupied since late 2012 after it outgrew its main headquarters on rue Mario Nikis some 45min away across the river Seine in the 15th district. With growing membership - now 20 member nations - ESA needs some extra room and it is convenient to have digs adjacent to the launchers directorate of the French space agency CNES. Anyway, added Dordain, refurbishment work at Mario Nikis had displaced this gathering.

So, he concluded: "It is easy to be director general. You just keep doing what people tell you to do."

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