Short Movie about the Beginning of ISSI: The House Johannes Geiss Built

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) is a nonprofit organization set up in Bern, Switzerland, in 1995. ISSI is a foundation under Swiss law with an initial endowment by the leading Swiss space company Contraves Space AG, later Oerlikon Space AG and now a part of RUAG. The European Space Agency (ESA), the Swiss Confederation, and the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) provide the financial resources for ISSI’s operation. The University of Bern contributes through a grant to a Director and in-kind facilities. 

In the late 1980s the idea of the International Space Science Institute was strongly supported by ESA in the wake of the successful cooperation between the four main world agencies of the USA (NASA), Japan (ISAS), Russia (IKI), and Europe (ESA) in the exploration of Halley’s Comet and thereafter in the study of solar terrestrial physics. Space research had by then reached a stage where coordinated efforts using many experiments on many spacecraft, as well as ground-based observations and theoretical modeling, are generally required for advancing science and our understanding of the Universe around us. The scientific aims of major modern space-research projects generally require a broad range of know-how and experience in science and engineering as well as sophisticated spacecraft and instrumentation, which is not readily available to a single space agency and its customers. Space research has thus progressed, through its many successes, to a point where international and even global cooperation and interdisciplinarity – a keyword of ISSI – has become mandatory. Under the initiative of Swiss scientists and Professor Johannes Geiss, the first ISSI Executive Director, the idea of the International Space Science Institute was born.

Space Agencies, Swiss political authorities, the Space Science community, industry and the Association Pro ISSI have actively promoted the creation of the International Space Science Institute, which was finally established 1995 in Bern, Switzerland. ISSI provides the necessary cross-fertilisation between the various disciplines within the space field, as well as providing the means to draw as necessary on the methods and arguments of the appropriate branches of physics, astronomy, chemistry and Earth sciences. Such access currently hardly affordable to an individual experimenter’s group is often the key to the interpretation of data in the wider scientific context, reaching well beyond the points of view of the individual disciplines.

Though initially predominantly focused on Sun-Earth relations, space plasma physics and planetary research, ISSI, has in the past years also addressed Earth Science subjects including Workshops on Solar Variability and Climate, the Earth Gravity Field, Atmospheric Electricity etc. It has also hosted International Teams addressing Earth related projects (e.g.: Assimilation of Envisat data, Aerosols-Clouds precipitation, Atmospheric Water Vapor etc.). In 2007, ISSI entered into a contractual relation with the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate of ESA, and set up a program funded by ESRIN (ESA center for Earth Observation) and managed within ISSI, focused on the IPY (International Polar Year) and related Living Planet topics. Earth Sciences is now a constant part of the program of the International Space Science Institute.

More than 6900 individual scientists from 60 countries have participated in ISSI activities during the first 26 years of its existence and published the results in scientific publications.