ESA Masterclass full series: Leadership at Mission Control
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Oct 28, 2020
The ESA Masterclass series brings leading figures in the Agency to the fore, from the cutting edge of space exploration. Join them as they share their journey, along with decades of experience, knowledge and lessons learnt during their eventful careers in space.
In the first of the Masterclass series, we head to Darmstadt, Germany, where epoch-making robotic space exploration missions have been flown under the watchful eye of one man, Paolo Ferri.
With 36 years' experience at the European Space Agency, Paolo Ferri was until September this year responsible for mission operations at ESA's ESOC Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Paolo has played a leading role in ensuring the success of ambitious missions like Eureca, Cluster, Venus Express and the epoch-making Rosetta - humanity's first landing on a comet.
In five episodes of 'Leadership at Mission Control', Paolo takes us through the major events in his career, covering cornerstone missions, first attempts, overcoming technical challenges, building diverse teams and solving the unexpected problems that arise with even the best-planned missions.
Paolo on thinking outside the box
In 'Thinking Outside the Box," Paolo describes three missions that suffered unexpected and potentially fatal flaws: Smart-1, Cluster and Exosat, and how on-the-ground knowledge, innovation and ingenuity prevented their untimely demise, allowing the science to go on.
On communication and teamwork
However, this 'conversation' between space and Earth is only as good as the conversations taking place on Earth, where effective communication and teamwork are fundamental. Effectively passing on information, experience and challenges are the key to success during critical operations, as teams evolve over the life of decades-long missions, and between different mission teams themselves.
In his second masterclass, Paolo Ferri illustrates the importance of effective communication with the help of Exosat, a flipchart and a 'blind' spacecraft, Venus Express.
On leadership, coaching, learning
In his third masterclass, Paolo shares what he has learnt going from an engineering expert with complete and specific knowledge of a single mission, to being responsible at a senior manager level for the success of dozens of missions operated by international teams each as diverse, unique and complex as the spacecraft they fly.
On working under pressure
In 1992, ESA's first-ever reusable satellite, Eureca, was delivered into orbit (and later retrieved) by a NASA Space Shuttle. It spent just under a year in orbit, and presented a plethora of problems from Day 1. While it was ultimately successful, Eureca required constant care from engineering teams on ground as well as hands-on help from astronauts in orbit.
As Deputy Operations Manager for the mission, Paolo Ferri explains in his fourth masterclass how this intense period acted as a 'school' for him, as he and his team were put under immense pressure by this orbiting 'box of surprises' constantly on the edge of catastrophe and mission failure.
On the culture at Mission Control
How does this work, and why is this the case? In the last of his Masterclass series, Paolo Ferri delves into the culture of operations, from written rules and procedures to equally important unwritten principles that guide the day-to-day working lives of those flying Europe's spacecraft.
Paolo explains that on rare occasions, an internal battle takes place when protocols, procedures and flight rules don't seem up to the task, and someone must assume the huge responsibility of deciding whether or not they need to be violated to keep a mission functioning.
A new decade of European exploration
Paris (ESA) Oct 16, 2020
This year's International Astronautical Congress will be visiting virtually the sites where Europe's exploration of our Solar System for the 2020s is beginning. Join the free live event on 14 October that will showcase the hardware and the people that are taking Europe to the Moon and Mars and back. The event will be hosted by ESA Director General Jan Worner with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joining the panel to discuss European contributions to, and ambitions for, human and robotic explorat ... read more
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