World-acclaimed astrophysicist resigns from Hellenic Space Agency

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Dr. Stamatis Krimizis

by Aggelos Skordas

The news of the resignation of distinguished Greek-American scientist Dr. Stamatis Krimizis from the newly established Hellenic Space Agency (HSA) on Monday, just weeks after his appointment as head of the program, did not come as a surprise. At least to those conversant with the Greek reality. Lots have been written on the disastrous phenomenon of brain drain in the crisis-struck country. Yet, despite the government’s vows to motivate young, aspiring scientists to stay in their homeland and help its way out of the recession, Greece appears unable to reserve one of the most influential figures in space exploration.

The renowned astrophysicist in the lines of his resignation letter described the timeless Greek plagues. Political interferences in his work, the immortal monster of bureaucracy and lack of meritocracy compose the reasons he stepped down from his post.

As he explained in his three-page letter, certain ministerial decisions “practically overrode the existential cause of the HAS, reducing it to an unreliable bureaucratic structure that could be subordinate to any political chief”, while adding that his intention was not to be “anyone’s mouthpiece”.

Krimizis characterised the Secretary General of Telecommunications and Posts Vasilis Manglaras as a “Space Czar” pointing out his lack of knowledge and experience in the field: “It very soon became clear to me that the Secretary General of Telecommunications and Posts has undertaken, under the Minister [of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media Nikos Pappas’] permission, the role of ‘Space Czar’ in Greece, despite the fact that he has no knowledge and experience in this field. It seems to me that I am superfluous to needs, since I will not accept becoming anyone’s mouthpiece.”

As he pointed out, he had asked for and received certain assurances from the Minister in charge of the agency, but these were not met: “I tried to do my best, using the best. Unfortunately, the effort was not successful.”

Commenting on Krimizis’ resignation letter, the Secretary General accused the world-renowned astrophysicist of “coming into work just twice and not spending a minute to understand the responsibilities of the ministry and the organisation”.

“Mr. Manglaras obviously has a selective memory”, Krimizis responded explaining that: “The HSA’s board of directors met on three occasions, in sessions lasting seven hours each, and addressed all of the issues at hand at great length. It is obvious that the board and myself spent a lot time on understanding the founding charter, the law and the ministerial decision [establishing the agency], which was only made public on March 15”.

“It is surprising, of course, that the speed with which he managed within four weeks to evaluate and irrevocably judge the country’s effort to design and implement a coordinated national strategy in the field of space”, Pappas ironically said in a relevant tweet after thanking Stamatis Krimizis for his “short presence” in the HSA.

Who is Dr. Stamatis Krimizis

 Born in 1938 in Vrontados on the island of Chios, Greece, Krimizis studied at the University of Minnesota and earned his Bachelor of Physics in 1961. Two years later he earned his Master of Science at the University of Iowa and his Ph.D. in 1965. He is Head Emeritus of the Space Department Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Academy of Athens where he has the Chair of Science of Space. He is also the President of the Greek National Council for Research and Technology.

He is Honorary Director of NASA’s Space Programs and has contributed to numerous unmanned space exploration programs with the United States, while in 1999 the International Astronomical Union named the asteroid 8323 Krimizis (previously 1979 UH) in his honour.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.