I don’t know much about space issues. My 11-year-old son knows much more as I realized once again a few days ago when we visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
However, when I first realized how interested he was, I spontaneously thought of Stamatios Krimigis. “You know, there is a great Greek who knows all this stuff very well, everyone listens to him,” I told him. “To understand just how important he is they’ve named a planet after him,” I added. “That cannot be a planet,” he corrected me. Indeed it is the “asteroid 8323” which now has the name of the leading Greek astrophysicist, who worked on the Voyager 1 and 2 missions.
Krimigis, who took his first steps in Vrontado on the island of Chios and ended up exploring the universe, visiting the planets in his own way, is one of those special cases of successful Greeks living abroad who worked at agencies, organizations and or private companies – in his case NASA – and his achievements received international recognition.
These are the Greeks we cite with admiration and pride in so many discussions in Greece and abroad. Against this backdrop, it was a pleasant surprise when, around a month ago, it was announced that he became director of the Hellenic Space Agency (HSA).
Unfortunately the satisfaction with his appointment did not last long.
Krimigis resigned saying that ministerial decisions had “effectively annulled the HSA’s entire purpose and rendered it an unreliable bureaucratic structure that could become subservient to any political chief.” He also criticized behavior of the general secretary for telecommunications, who he said functioned as a “space czar” and had “no knowledge or experience in this field.”
The decision of a scientist of such high caliber – the head emeritus of the Space Department Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and a NASA researcher – to involve himself in the project of the Hellenic Space Agency convinced everyone that something significant was in the making.
That perhaps a minister dared to differ by selecting someone on the grounds of merit for the good of the country, without bureaucratic constraints and political interventions. Unfortunately these expectations were dashed.
It is unacceptable for us to let down and send away those that we should be protecting and luring to the country, and ultimately making the most of them – these great scientists that serve as great role models.
The resignation of the leading Greek astrophysicist is a defeat for the country.