About Roy Gibson

Dr. Roy Gibson

Dr. Roy Gibson

Introduction to Roy Gibson, former director of ESA, at the 50th Anniversary of the Space Age held by the International Astronautical Federation on 21 March 2007 at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, France.

“Dr Gibson noted that there was a natural tendency at a time like this to slip into self-congratulation. Indeed there had been successes in fifty years of the Space Age but we owe it to ourselves to note the less-glorious moments.

“Scientific satellites have been a major drive to developing international cooperation. Developing a Global Earth Observation system has been a fine aim. At the same time, we have been beset in the last 50 years by the politics of national space programmes.

“National prestige has driven much space activity with the inevitable duplication of facilities that could have been shared in international effort. Dr Gibson was sanguine about the need for so much effort and money spent on prestigious manned programmes as opposed to robotic missions. Having said this, and while international cooperation is important, an international space agency was not a realistic aim. Countries could instead add resources to a common international programme.

“An interesting development has been private-sector demand for space. In the future, space tourism will find its own level and international space law has to learn to cater for this.

“Roy Gibson was deputy technical director of the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) from 1967 to 1971, then Director of Administration from 1971 to 1974.Image of the European space agency logo

“He was instrumental in persuading other countries to join together to form the European Space Agency and it was established on 31 May 1975. Bringing the agency together as its Director-General, his tenure was also notable for the launch of the first Ariane rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

“The British National Space Centre was formed in 1985 to articulate UK policy on space and Roy Gibson was the natural choice to become its first Director General. He resigned due to the then British government space policy in 1987.

“He was instrumental and provides continuing expertise to the field of Earth Observation and helped create the European Environment Agency.”

Read an adapted version of Dr. Gibson’s speech here.

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