Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga is the new ISSI Administrative Director as of 1st of August 2021

The ISSI Board of Trustees and the University of Bern appointed Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga to serve ISSI as the new Administrative Director and at the University of Bern as Professor at the Physics Institute. Maurizio Falanga succeeds Rudolf von Steiger in these positions as of 1st of August 2021.

Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga

Maurizio Falanga was born in Basel, Switzerland and graduated in Theoretical Physics at the University of Basel. He received his PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy. Afterwards he held various research fellowship positions in astrophysics departments around Europe. His scientific background is in high-energy astrophysics (hot universe and compact objects). He is author and co-author of about 200 published papers and (co-)editor of several books in his research fields. He has been invited to serve on a number of high-level international committees like Board member of the A&A Journal and others. Since 2009 he is the science program manager at ISSI, and between 2013 and 2019 he has been appointed as the first part-time Executive Director of ISSI-Beijing, China. Thus, Maurizio is known to the ISSI community and is highly regarded as a friendly and open-minded person who is always approachable. ISSI is looking forward to working with Maurizio in his new function.



Prof. Dr. Rudolf von Steiger

Ruedi von Steiger, at ISSI since the first days of the institute in 1995, has retired from his position as Administrative Director and as Professor at the University of Bern by the end of July 2021. For ISSI’s science portfolio, Ruedi represented Solar and Plasma Physics with his own focus on the composition of the solar wind using theoretical modeling and data from Solar Composition Analyzers on space missions such as Ulysses. As the full-time administrative director, Ruedi was essential in running the institute and nurturing its growth from a few to almost a thousand visitors per year. Moreover, Ruedi was the institute’s link to the University of Bern for which he taught courses in Observational Cosmology, Nucleosynthesis, and Quantum Mechanics and served on the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Science. ISSI will forever be thankful to Ruedi for his tireless and inspirational service for more than 25 years.

Board of Trustees appoints Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet as ISSI Honorary Director

ISSI Honorary Director Prof.-Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet

Over time, Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet has constantly supported the development of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, during two specific periods of time, he has played an especially important role in establishing ISSI.

First, as the director of Science of the European Space Agency (ESA), Prof. Bonnet helped Prof. Dr. Johannes Geiss in paving the way, which led to the creation of ISSI in January 1995.

Second, as the successor of Prof. Geiss as Executive Director of ISSI, from 2003 till 2012, Prof. Bonnet has expanded ISSI scientific interests and developed the tools by which ISSI now engages a global scientific audience.

Acknowledging his pivotal role and expressing deep gratitude for his steady and effective support and leadership that has made ISSI a beacon in space science, the ISSI Board of Trustees presents Prof. Roger-Maurice Bonnet with the title of Honorary Director of the International Space Science Institute, effective as of June 1, 2021.

With this award, the Board of Trustees wishes to highlight Prof. Bonnet’s essential role, both in the past and today, as a true ambassador of ISSI to the international scientific community.

The ISSI Board of Trustees


ISSI Game Changer Online Seminar: News from the ISSI Team

Dear Friends of ISSI and the ISSI Game Changer Online Seminar!
The first season of the ISSI Game Changer Seminar Series “How missions change(d) our view of the Solar System, the Universe, and the Earth” ends with the end of this month of March. 

In four blocks since July 2020, we first covered missions such as Rosetta, Hayabusa II, and SOHO to solar system objects, and then astrophysical space telescopes such as Gaia, Integral, and the Hubble Space Telecope. In 2021 to date, we presented Earth observation missions such as SMOS, Cryosat and GRACE. The series will conclude on March 25 with a presentation on CFOSAT, a joint Chinese and French oceanography mission to understand ocean dynamics and climate variability. 

Before that, however, we present three more highlights: First, this Thursday, March 4, Prof. Stamatios Krimigis will report on the space odyssey of the two Voyager probes, which have now left the solar system and are cruising in interstellar space!  This will be followed on March 11 by a talk on the Apollo program and its scientific legacy presented by Prof. Jim Head a witness to the first manned landing on an extraterrestrial body. For March 18, we are soliciting a talk on an x-ray astrophysics mission. 

The Game Changers seminars will then take a break in April. In May we plan to resume the series. But this time the focus will not be on missions but rather on themes, “Ideas and Findings about the Solar System, the Universe and our Terrestrial Environment”, as we plan to call it. 

Foreseen are talks on topics like the origin of the Moon and of the Solar System, comparing it to other planetary systems. Spectroscopy of extrasolar planetary atmospheres will be on our agenda as well as Martian Seismology, the composition of the Sun, space weather and astrobiology. We will further look at the latest on the Hubble constant controversy, present new results on the merger history of the Milky Way, and offer exiting views on supermassive black holes – in our Galaxy and elsewhere. For our terrestrial environment we will keep an eye on problems related to climate and global change and their societal impact but also compare the Earth to its siblings in the solar system.  
We plan not to proceed in blocks this time but rather mix themes. An astrophysical topic can therefore immediately follow an environmental topic and precede a planetary topic.  

While in our present program we have been looking back at those missions that helped us better understand our world, for the new series we dare to look ahead to topics that we consider to be particularly promising for the future.
With our best regards and stay safe & tuned

Your ISSI Team 

Prof. em. Dr. Hans Balsiger

Hans Balsiger (picture taken on the ISSI Annual Dinner 2015)
Hans Balsiger (picture taken on the occasion of the ISSI Annual Dinner 2015)

With great sadness, ISSI heard of the passing away of Prof. Hans Balsiger, former Director of the Physics Institute of the University of Bern and Professor of Experimental Physics. Prof. Balsiger helped found the institute and served on the ISSI Science Committee and the Board of Trustees for twenty years, between 1995 and 2014. He was a true friend of the institute and always a great supporter. His advice was highly appreciated. 


ISSI and its staff will miss him greatly!

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.



Season’s Greetings 2020

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. Our thoughts linger with those who suffered as a result of the pandemic! But 2020 also saw great achievements and innovations in space science. Among them, two robotic sample return missions: The stunning Hayabusa2 mission that brought back samples from Ryugu and then flew on to asteroid 1998 KY26. And the historic Chang’e 5 mission that returned the first samples from the Moon since Luna24 in 1976. Perfect Christmas presents for the International Space Science Community! ISSI congratulates our close Japanese and Chinese friends on these achievements, and at the same time proudly reports the timely publication of Volume 74 of our Space Science series on the “Role of Sample Return in Addressing Major Questions in Planetary Sciences”.

ISSI wishes you and your beloved ones a safe and healthy holiday season and a great start to 2021!

Image Credit: Hayabusa 2 illustration by Akihiro Ikeshita 

Welcome and Good-Bye

A very warm welcome to our new staff members Yemisi Momoh, Secretary, and Willi Wäfler, Computer Engineer, supporting ISSI since December 1st. We are looking very much forward to working with both!

And a very sad good-bye to Alexandra Lehmann and Saliba F. Saliba who will leave us by the end of the year.

Alexandra Lehmann and Yemisi Momoh

With her fascination for the Universe and unsolved questions, Yemisi Momoh is joining the secretariat of ISSI. The experience from her previous position in an energy supply company will enable her to support and be responsible for the ISSI secretariat. She will be very happy to help ISSI visitors and staff with any related question and is looking forward to working with them.



Willi Wäfler and Saliba F. Saliba


Willi Wäfler is our new computer engineer. He has already 15 years of experience with IT-solutions, such as maintaining
computer networks and developing websites and web apps. He likes the international spirit at ISSI and is always ready to support its visitors and staff in all technical questions.

We regret to see Alexandra Lehmann leave ISSI after almost five years and Saliba F. Saliba after even nineteen (!) years! Both will be moving on in their careers. Their extremely important and valuable personal commitment to ISSI marked the past years. We thank them wholeheartedly for their work and wish them all the best for tackling new challenges! Congratulations and stay in touch!