Simonetta Cheli, the lady of satellites, director of the Earth observation programs of Esa-

by time news
from Giovanni Caprara

Cheli the new head of Earth observation at the European Space Agency. For work I traveled the world, the family was not affected. After studying at Yale, she graduated in Florence before specializing in Paris

I am happy to be at the helm of Earth observation by facing a challenge that I was passionate about 15 years ago when I asked to be part of this field of activity of the ESA space agency. Simonetta Cheli, from Siena, 57 years old, the first woman to fill this role, was chosen by the Council of the European Agency to succeed Josef Aschbacher, who became the new director general of the European body, of which she was the right arm as head of strategies, programs and their coordination.

Why this attraction to the environment?

When I made the choice, I had already been with ESA for 15 years dealing with international relations. We had only three satellites in orbit engaged in scrutinizing the conditions of our planet and we were beginning to talk seriously about climate change. We now have 16 satellites scanning oceans, atmosphere, winds and ice, and 39 more are in the works. We receive a mountain of information conveyed to the Esrin ESA center in Frascati and then distributed free of charge to scientists, users and public bodies to manage cities, agricultural crops, the consequences of natural events.

Why did you approach space and the European Agency?

When I joined ESA thirty years ago I had studies in economics and international law at the universities of Yale, in Florence and at the Center for Diplomatic and Strategic Studies in Paris. I had acquired the importance of relationship management and saw their relevance in addressing large technological and global companies such as climate change. Esa was therefore an extraordinary destination and I started from the lowest step, but the passion helped me to grow.

A space agency is a reality distributed on the European continent …

Indeed, it was necessary to work in different locations. But in the family we understood why my husband is an ESA engineer and he understands the needs of this job that takes you from Holland to Guyana, from Moscow to Washington.

Without any unpleasant consequences?

No. We have two wonderful children, Lavinia and Giulio by now independent, to whom we have always dedicated all our time outside of work. important to have a balance in personal life without imposing sacrifices and respecting every moment.

A European agency a mix of lives and careers. Was it difficult to be a woman and emerge?

When I started, there were few of us and there was less competition. Now things have changed. There are internal and external forces that make the day more complex. However, an extraordinary job and I had exceptional characters beside me who taught me a lot. I have had no impediments to get to where I am now.

October 21, 2021 (change October 22, 2021 | 21:50)

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