At the beginning of March 2021, Professor Dr.-Ing. Johann-Dietrich Wörner’s period of office as Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2015 came to an end. He passed on the baton to the Austrian Dr Josef Aschbacher, who had been appointed in December to become the next ESA Director General.

Under Professor Wörner’s leadership, the organisation successfully tackled new challenges. German participation in ESA programmes rose significantly whilst he was in his post. This commitment is an expression of Germany’s trust in ESA’s role for the development of European space flight, which saw the approval of a record number of ESA programmes at the 2019 Council at Ministerial Level. Professor Wörner contributed considerably to the success of the Ministerial Council entitled 'Space19+‘. During his term of office, the course was set at ESA towards 'New Space'. The involvement of start-ups and private stakeholders, increasing commercialisation and a focus on competition were promoted also in the context of the expansion of the ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) and the New Space contest for small launchers under the Boost! programme. The German Federal Government is committed to ensuring that ESA continues on this path under Professor Wörner’s successor.

Federal Minister Peter Altmaier said: "I want to thank Professor Wörner for the many years of outstanding services to German and European space flight. Both as Chairman of the Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and since 2015 as ESA Director General, he successfully used his qualities as a 'mover and shaker' to the benefit of a strong position for Europe in space. In his function as President of the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech, Professor Wörner will continue to have a major impact on Germany’s position as high-tech hub.“

Aerospace Policy Coordinator Thomas Jarzombek said: "European space flight is experiencing a paradigm shift. We need to improve efficiency and performance – the key to competitiveness. During his term of office, especially at the last ESA Ministerial Council in 2019, Professor Wörner set the course at ESA towards New Space, and we need to continue on this path."