Observatory Professor Says Greece Needs Space Agency

Photo: hellas-sat.net.

ATHENS – A Greek space agency is absolutely necessary and should have been created years ago, the new head of the Athens National Observatory Professor Manolis Pleionis said, in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency March 12.

He said though that it should be preceded by a wide-ranging consultation process between the various ministries involved, with a coordinating committee answerable to the Prime Minister undertaking to promote the project.

In January, Telecoms and Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas said he wanted to set up Greece’s first space agency but didn’t say how it would be funded during a crushing economic crisis.

The agency will be a public limited company called National Center for Space Applications (EKDE in Greek,) aimed at “making up for the country’s huge deficit in this area,” the ministry said, according to Kathimerini.

“The launch of the Hellas Sat satellite this year will create important commercial opportunities, which will be developed by a space policy agency along European lines,” the announcement said.

According to the ministry, EKDE will have the right to lease transponders that are not being used by the Greek state and will also act as an intermediary between Greek and international centers in the fields of commercial, scientific and military research.

The company will also be tasked with exploring space technology as a civil protection tool by developing applications for environmental monitoring, fire prevention and control, monitoring illegal construction, etc.

“Greece is one of the few European countries that does not have an organization for commercially and scientifically utilizing its rights or the plethora of research and scientific applications and resources available through the European Space Agency,” Pappas said when presenting the bill.

Pleionis also said there was a need for state support to fix a chronic shortage of specialised staff to cover the 24-hour shifts at the Geodynamic Institute monitoring earthquake activity, or the National Tsunami Centre, as well as a shortage of space at the existing facilities due to an ever-expanding range of activities.

He also noted that the Observatory’s services were not fully exploited by state services and other bodies while expressing support for the creation of spin-off companies by Observatory scientists in order to increase its revenues.

Pleionis said that the criticism levelled against the government for lowering standards at Greek universities were “excessive” and predicted that Greek scientists will gradually start to return from abroad thanks to the initiatives of the education ministry.

Professor Pleionis has been a professor of Observational Astronomy at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Physics Department since 2012. He carried out research for several years in Italy at the SISSA and ICTP centres and was a guest researcher at the INAOE research centre in Mexico from 2002-2015.

He was also a researcher, director of research and deputy director of the Athens Observatory from 1995-2012 with more than 200 papers on astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology published in scientific journals.