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Michael Banks: September 2008 Archives

Enrico Saggese

By Michael Banks

Yesterday afternoon here at the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow, I had a brief chat with Enrico Saggese, the controversial new commissioner of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Saggese was recently installed by the Italian government after it sacked his predecessor (and one-time Physics World author) — Giovanni Bignami — following the mass resignation of the agency’s seven-member administrative council. The space agency is normally led by a president who chairs the council. But in August, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi replaced the council with a commissioner and deputy commissioner, discarding Bignami, who had been president, in the process.

I asked Saggese why Berlusconi changed the structure of the agency when Bignami was replaced. “There are situations which happen where you have to reorganise the agency internally”, Saggese explained rather opaquely, “but there are a group of people around me, such as a magistrate taking care of what I am doing, so I am not a powerful man.”

By Michael Banks

The weather was dry as I arrived yesterday at the armadillo-shaped congress centre in Glasgow for the 59th International Astronautical Congress. But there was no need for delegates to ask what the weather forecast would be for the rest of the week. Even before I had had the chance to register, I had already picked up two conference freebies. They were both umbrellas.

The IAC is a huge global meeting at which the international space industry and national space agencies come together to show their wares and find out what everyone is up to. In the afternoon, just as the first rain clouds were opening up, the heads of national agencies came together for a briefing session. NASA boss Mike Griffin was joined on the panel by other space-agency chiefs such as ROSCOSMOS deputy head Alexander Medvedchikov from Russia, the Chinese National Space Administration’s boss Sun Laiyan, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency head Keji Tachikawa as well as Byrana Suresh, director of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.