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Masters with Masters: Dino Brondolo and Alan Thirkettle

Masters with Masters events bring together master practitioners to reflect on their experiences, lessons learned, and perspectives about upcoming challenges.

Vol. 5, Issue 10

The spotlight was on Europe in a Masters with Masters event at the 2012 International Astronautical Congress in Naples, Italy.

APPEL Director Dr. Ed Hoffman moderated a special international Masters with Masters on October 3, 2012 with Dino Brondolo, Director of Infrastructure Programs at Thales Alenia Space Systems in Torino, Italy, and Alan Thirkettle, formerly the head of Human Spaceflight Projects Department at the European Space Agency (ESA) prior to his retirement in 2008.

The conversation explored the collaboration involved in building the International Space Station, particularly projects such as ESA’s Columbus module, ATV, and Cupola.

“It really was an exciting experience. I learned a lot of things about the system design and the operational aspects,” said Brondolo, who supported the Italian Space Agency in the early 1990s and had the opportunity to be involved in the ISS program at a high level. “To start at the top and define the mission requirements, define the system requirements, then to go through the element requirements is [an experience] that was really important to me. It [could] be applied to any project that we had to develop in the future.”

“There was total cooperation and it worked very well,” said Thirkettle. “And happily, we (ESA) had the support from industry as well, far more so than [other] member states who were very keen to cancel the station during the early part of 2000. So as industry went through the exercise of learning how to do these things (i.e. to cooperate), we also went through the exercise of learning how to do these things. It was quite a learning curve, but it was a good curve.”

Both guests agreed that the relationships that were built throughout the ISS program were critical to success. “I think the thing in the end that mattered was that people developed trust and respect for one another’s roles and responsibilities,” added Thirkettle. “And if you’ve got trust and respect and you’ve got transparency, then I think you can pretty much solve anything that you ever wanted to try and do.”

Watch a preview of the Masters with Masters event from the 2012 International Astronautical Congress.


Watch previous Masters with Masters events.


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