New European Space Chief

PARIS--The European Space Agency (ESA) has found a new person to lead it into the 21st century. ESA's governing board today tapped as the agency's next Director-General Antonio Rodota, a key figure in Italy's corporate aerospace community.

Rodota, 61, succeeds Jean-Marie Luton, whose 6-year tenure as ESA director has come under increasing fire for perceived weak leadership. Indeed, last November personnel at the European Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands--one of four major ESA centers--approved a resolution of no confidence in ESA's top management. A month later, Luton announced that he would forgo a third term.

Stepping into the breach is Rodota, director of the Space Division of Finmeccanica, an aerospace and nuclear-engineering company based in Milan, Italy. Rodota, who also serves on the boards of directors of several other aerospace firms, including the French giant Arianespace, will serve a 4-year term as ESA head. Four other scientists were nominated to top posts of ESA departments, including technology programs and telecommunications.

Rank-and-file space scientists are breathing a sigh of relief with the announcement of the long-expected management changes. "I hope this will bring some stability," says Pascal Gilles, of ESA's European Space Research Institute in Frascati, near Rome, and president of ESA's Central Staff Association Committee.