Out in Front: A Glow under the Snow

January 1, 2014  - By
Prague is now the headquarters of the European GNSS Agency (GSA).

Prague is now the headquarters of the European GNSS Agency (GSA).

A holiday card from a colleague in Europe calls to mind GNSS’s headlong course into the future, coupled with that most backward-reflective of human preoccupations, history.

The European GNSS Agency (GSA), whence originated this card, moved from Brussels to Prague in September 2012, in a nod to the pan-European nature of the European Union (EU) generally and its GNSSs, Galileo and EGNOS, in particular. No EU agency headquarters had been sited in Eastern Europe, and it was deemed that some soon must do. Prague made a strong bid for the GSA.

A political, cultural, and economic center of central Europe under its current name since the year 908, it has a settlement history dating back to 1306 BC. Good King Wenceslaus, who looked out upon the snow round about, deep and crisp and even, and about whom we sang festively this past season, ruled from Prague around 935, subsequently rose to sainthood, and is the patron saint of Bohemia, the Czech homeland.

The GSA has a rather variegated mission: it “manages public interests related to European GNSS programmes.” This includes everything from marketing to security — in a sense, everything satnav-related that scientists and engineers do not do. Its list of tasks and responsibilities includes 12 subheads and 61 bulleted points.

Carlo des Dorides, GSA executive director, noted upon opening the new headquarters in 2012 that Prague derives from the Slavic word praga, for threshold. “I think this is appropriate for the GSA and Galileo, as it represents the beginning of a key step for both.” EC vice-president Antonio Tajani added, “Galileo is important not only for space policy and science, but for the services and jobs that it brings.”

Thus the many GSA staffers labor to wring full advantage for modern economies from the space-based radio signal generators, amid the cobblestone streets and ancient monuments of one of the best-preserved ancient European cities, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.

While busily plunging into the future, we cannot escape our past.

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