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European Space Agency appoints Austrian scientist new chief

BERLIN (AP): The European Space Agency said on Thursday that Josef Aschbacher, an Austrian scientist who leads its Earth observation programme, has been appointed as the organisation's next head.

The agency's 22 member states elected Aschbacher to be ESA's director general succeeding Jan Woerner, whose term ends on June 30.

Aschbacher currently oversees the ESA's centre for Earth Observation, near Rome, and has been deeply involved in some of the agency's most high-profile missions including the Copernicus fleet of satellites collecting environmental data about the planet from space.

The European Space Agency has lately begun discussing involvement in crewed missions beyond Earth's orbit, such as a possible return-to-the-Moon mission with NASA.

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