It is almost time to say goodbye to 2021, a year in which ESA once more succeeded in continuing operations in a challenging global situation, and creating some important milestones in the field of European spaceflight.
As always, ESA has been at the forefront of science, with several science missions en route to their destinations or being prepared for flight, such as BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter, JUICE and ExoMars, and not least rounding off the year with the impending launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Europe’s Copernicus programme continues to be the largest Earth observation system in the world, and ESA is even preparing more Earth observation missions. In 2021, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet carried out his Alpha mission to the Space Station, and Matthias Maurer began his Cosmic Kiss mission, continuing into 2022.
As the ESA said farewell to Prof. Jan Wörner, a new Director General, Dr. Josef Aschbacher took the helm of ESA with great ambition to accelerate the use of space in Europe. Meanwhile, the latest Vega rocket flight paved the way for the transition to Vega-C, and the new Ariane 6 launchpad was inaugurated.