A bold ambition for Europe in space exploration received enthusiastic support from politicians, business leaders and independent experts from across Europe at an event held today in Vienna.
Delegates discussed the immense international, economic and societal importance of space exploration for Europe – and how to establish the way forward.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said: "Space technologies are key technologies for our future. Space science and technology will continue to play an important role in the future. ESA fulfils much more than just a strategic policy task, it is above all about innovation and technology leadership and thus ultimately also about Europe and Austria as a business location."
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said: “Space offers immense opportunities for Europe. Europe is already a leader in Earth observation, climate monitoring, navigation and space science. In addition, human and robotic exploration have recently seen a rapid growth in most space faring nations.
“Europe cannot afford to be left behind. Three countries already send astronauts into space: the US, Russia and China, soon to be joined by India. To retain its technological leadership, leverage geopolitical opportunities, seize upcoming economic opportunities and attract the best talent, Europe must act now to develop its own sovereign access to space, not only for increased autonomy but also to be a stronger partner for international cooperation.”
Europe should establish an independent European presence in Earth orbit, lunar orbit, on the Moon and beyond, according to “Revolution Space: Europe’s Mission for Space Exploration”, which was recently produced by an independent high-level advisory group, members of whom took part in the event.
Internationally, more than 100 lunar missions are planned to take place by 2030.
Having the ability to send European astronauts to low Earth orbit or to the Moon in a European spacecraft, carrying on board astronauts from other continents, will empower Europe to trade on an equal footing with other major space powers, Therese Niss, an Austrian politician and entrepreneur who is a member of the independent high-level advisory group, told delegates.
The group called on ESA to help to transform and invigorate the European space industry and identify its economic impact; develop scenarios for independent and sustainable European human access to low Earth orbit after the end of the International Space Station in 2030; to land on the Moon within 10 years; and to propose visionary and transformative European flagship projects in space for the 2030s and beyond.
ESA is now working to realise this bold vision and will present its plans to its Council during a high-level space summit that will be held in Seville in Spain on 6 and 7 November.