Frustrated Brazilian Space Research Director Stepping Down

The director of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Gilberto Câmara, has announced that he will step down from his post later this year, about two years before the end of his term.

“I left the space agency is due to the exhaustion caused by the daily struggle with legislation and institutional structures totally inadequate to institutions of S & T. Adding to the frustration at the lack of renewal of the staff by INPE,” Câmara said in a statement.

The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo attributes Câmara’s decision to “differences with the leadership of the Brazilian space program and a break with the president of the AEB (Brazilian Space Agency), Marco Antonio Raupp” over the future of a joint rocket project with Ukraine and a proposed merger of AEB and INPE.

The article says there is a fundamental disagreement over whether to continue a joint project to launch the Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rocket from the Alcantara spaceport. The billion dollar effort is years behind schedule and there are complaints on the Brazilian side about Ukraine failing to live up to its financial commitments.

“Câmara has been a leading critic of the Brazil-Ukraine project, which competes for resources with satellite program developed by INPE. It is estimated that Brazil still need to put $600 million in the partnership,” the newspaper reports.

“Another factor that has put Câmara and Raupp in collision was the proposed merger [of INPE] with the space agency AEB, which is still under investigation by the ministry,” the newspaper adds.

Raupp feels the consolidation would allow the Brazilian space effort to function more efficiently by improving overall coordination and management.  He also wants to increase the private sector’s role in the space program, something that created fear among long-suffering government employees who have dealt with low salaries, meager resources and poor morale for decades.

In a clarification sent to the newspaper and published on the AEB website, Câmara denied any break with Raupp but did not address the specific programmatic issues raised in the story.

“The article published in Folha on 18.8.2011 about my request for withdrawal as director of the space agency attributes my departure to differences with the president of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), Dr. Marco Antonio Raupp. It is a statement that does not match the facts past and present.

“I have great respect for Marco Raupp, the fruit of 25 years together. Raupp has always advocated the development of Brazilian science and technology in all public offices he held. When he was director of INPE, 1985 to 1988, created the program of Sino-Brazilian satellite (CBERS) and the Center for Weather Forecasting and Climate Studies (CPTEC), two initiatives of great benefit to Brazil and that the space agency performs today. Raupp gave great contribution as a manager at the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), Parque Tecnológico de São José dos Campos, National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC) and the Polytechnic Institute of Rio de Janeiro.

“I am confident that the management of the Brazilian Space Agency Raupp will be marked by an increase in the budgets and human resources of the space program, consistent with its history of service to the country Raupp is a great Brazilian scientist and deserves the respect of society .

“I left the space agency is due to the exhaustion caused by the daily struggle with legislation and institutional structures totally inadequate to institutions of S & T. Adding to the frustration at the lack of renewal of the staff by INPE. It is very stressful to know that Brazil is in danger of losing the excellent services that the space agency provides to society. Our best specialists have over 30 years of service and can retire at any time. I trust the sensitivity of the Minister Mercadante and Dr. Raupp to achieve appropriate solutions to the space agency continues to be an institution of excellence and a pride for Brazil.”