Franco Ongaro – Chair of the Day

Franco Ongaro graduated as a Doctor of Aeronautical Engineering from the University Politecnico of Milan. In 1987 he joined ESA, working at ESA HQ in Paris on the Columbus project. In 1988, he moved to ESTEC in the Netherlands as Head of the Columbus Payload Interfaces Unit. He was shortlisted as candidate in the European astronaut selection of 1991.

In 2001, he initiated and managed the start of the Aurora exploration programme until 2005, when he became head of the ESA Advanced Concepts and Technology Planning Department, issuing the first ESA Technology Long Term Plan and creating the Advanced Concepts Team. 

On 1 April 2011, he became Director of Technical and Quality Management (D/TEC) at ESTEC in Noordwijk and, since 1 January 2017, he has been Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality.

Maria Antonietta Perino

Maria Antonietta is involved in different activities promoting the development of young professionals in the space industry.

Since 1986 she has been working at Thales Alenia Space – Turin, as Program Manager of major ESA and ASI activities related to exploration like ExoMars, Mars Sample Return, and the Aurora Core Program. In 2010 she was appointed Director for Advanced Exploration Programs.

In the last years she has been Director Marketing & Sales for the ESA Exploration & Science Programs, and Director for System Supplies Operations. Currently she is Director for International Network Opportunities Development.

John Connolly

John Connolly is currently a member of NASA’s Artemis program, planning the return of astronaut explorers to the moon.  His 33 year of NASA expertise includes lunar lander design, lunar surface systems, and human Mars mission planning.  Connolly has held positions as NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems lead, Human Mars Study Team lead, and Chief Exploration Scientist.

Mr. Connolly’s NASA career has been devoted to defining future systems that will send human crews beyond Low Earth Orbit, return them to the moon, and lead them to Mars and beyond.

Didier Schmitt

Didier Schmitt is coordinator for human and robotic exploration at ESA. From 2009 to 2018, Didier Schmitt was in the European Commission Space Policy Unit and before that, he was head of Life Sciences for human spaceflight at ESA-ESTEC, Associate Professor at the Toulouse medical school and the International Space University.

His academic work brought him to Cape Canaveral and Star City in Moscow for experiments on Shuttle-Spacelab and Mir station. Extreme environments are his passion, like a recent Antarctic inland logistics expedition or a space-habitat simulator. 

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