The new institution based in Seville is finding it difficult to attract CDTI technicians with high qualifications in the management of space programmes

Lack of human capital stalks the newly born Spanish Space Agency

photo_camera PHOTO/Wikipedia - The birth took place in Seville on 20 April under the sign of Aries, a month and a half after the Council of Ministers gave the go-ahead to its statute.

A beautiful baby girl has just come into the world under the zodiac sign of Aries. The happy birth took place in Seville and the newborn has been christened the Spanish Space Agency, ESA. 

The good news took place on 20 April with the holding of the constituent session of its Governing Council, which is made up of twenty members and chaired by the Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, in accordance with the Statute of the ESA approved on 7 March by the Council of Ministers. 

With little more than two weeks of official life, the ESA must become fully operational as soon as possible, given that it is the national body responsible for captaining the vast national space ecosystem, whose "strategic" and "State project" nature is repeatedly highlighted. Its first two tasks are to propose to the Executive a Space Law and a National Space Plan which, believe it or not, Spain still does not have at this stage of the 21st century. 

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In order to take its first steps, the ESA hopes to "incorporate 75 people with a highly qualified profile and a recognised professional career", according to the official communiqu茅 from the Ministry of Science and Innovation headed by Morant, who announced the news of its creation on 20 April.  

But attracting 75 qualified and experienced professionals to Seville, almost all of whom live, work and have their lives and families in or near Madrid, is not going to be an easy task. For this reason, "at the AEE, we still have no idea what the final scenario we are going to find when we start our activity".

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Without yet knowing the conditions of the move

The decision of the Council of Ministers on 5 December to locate the ESA headquarters in Seville was a cold shower for the core group of people who for decades have defended and promoted the role of Spain, its scientists and the national space industry in European Space Agency projects. Today, more than five months after the Government chose the city of La Giralda, they still do not know the conditions for its relocation. 

Sources close to the ESA confirm that these conditions "have already been defined and are about to be approved, with the final go-ahead to start passing them on to possible interested parties". However, the absence of reliable information for more than five months and doubts about the future and career prospects of each of them have led to the departure, the flight of most of those who were initially excited about belonging to the ESA. 

The vast majority of the men and women who were assigned to the Space department of the Space, Large Installations and Dual Programmes department of the Centre for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI) have relocated, moved jobs or gone to private enterprise in a long litany of changes of destination. 

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It is worth bearing in mind that the CDTI has managed around 90% of Spain's civilian public investment in space since 1986, in particular the more than 300 million a year contributed to the European Space Agency and invested in workloads for national companies, the funds dedicated to the numerous R&D&I projects related to the outer space field, and cooperation with other national and international institutions.  

Some technicians, protected by anonymity to avoid bad faces, say unequivocally that they are "willing to be part of ESA, even making the necessary sacrifices". Some of them, a few of them, even state "my willingness to leave my family temporarily and move to Seville, but not to the point of paying for my own residence".

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On the fingers of one hand

The CDTI's young space organisation is a team of around 25 people, most of whom are mostly highly trained and specialised, highly competent and committed to their work, but unfortunately it has been left with a bare bones," they confirm in industry. It has been "laminated, pulverised, dynamited... it has been a real drain". Things have been done in such a way that those who are willing to move to Seville "can be counted on the fingers of one hand". 

It must be borne in mind that "the vast majority of us have our lives in place, with families, houses, mortgages...", stresses a grieving member of the CDTI. "Some are divorced and have joint custody of their children. Others have small children or teenagers"... In short, "nobody imagined that space matters in the hands of the CDTI would change location". 

Another veteran who says he enjoys his day-to-day work says that "I'm not angry, I'm just angry". In his view, the creation of the Agency "has been politicised since its inception and continues to be politicised at the expense of public employees". With the exception of the integration of space activities, there is even a lack of rigorous analysis of what ESA brings to the table compared to the previous model.

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Things look different in the Air and Space Army, which will transfer to the ESA "around a dozen officers and non-commissioned officers under the command of a Major General", according to military sources. The opposite is the case at the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA), which "will not assign any of the nearly 500 technicians working in its Space Systems sub-directorate", according to sources close to the public research body, unless the Agency calls for posts, they compete for them and win them. 

From Madrid to Seville, why? The ultimate and main reason why the headquarters of the ESA has been set in the capital of Andalusia is due to the obsession of the secretary general of the hegemonic Socialist Party and the coalition government presided over by Pedro Sanchez to fight the mother of all battles in Seville in the municipal elections on 28 May. 

With the Junta de Andaluc铆a in the hands of the popular Juanma Moreno, the Agency revolves around the socialist Antonio Mu帽oz revalidating and maintaining the baton of command of the Seville mayor's office. So much so that Mu帽oz does not miss the slightest opportunity to appear in the ESA's soup to claim to be the great architect of its location in the city. "The idea of decentralising institutions and bringing them closer to the emptied Spain was a tall tale that some people believed in... and that's how it's worked out for them," he says, convinced that "the Space Agency's take-off, whatever happens, will be for the best".

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