Brussels, 16 Jan 2004
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has welcomed US plans for a new space exploration programme, and announced that the Commission, along with the European Space Agency (ESA), will be analysing the implications of the new strategy.
The Commissioner emphasised that Europe, too, is interested in space exploration as an 'emblematic project of European cooperation'. However, acknowledging US President George Bush's call for international cooperation, Mr Busquin made it clear that Europe has no ambitions of entering a space race.
'The exploration of space is a domain that is open to international scientific cooperation. We welcome therefore the call of President Bush for international cooperation. [...] One thing is clear: Europe will be a better solid, credible and respected partner in the space sector than a space power itself.'
Announcing an ambitious programme which will include using the Moon as a base for the exploration of other planets, President Bush claimed that cooperation with other countries would be desirable.
'We'll invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery,' he said. 'The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.'
Summarising the new strategy, the President said: 'Inspired by all that has come before, and guided by clear objectives, today we set a new course for America's space programme. We will give NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] a new focus and vision for future exploration. We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own.'
More concretely, the US plans to develop a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct an initial manned mission no later than 2014. By 2020, the Moon is also foreseen as a launching point for missions further afield. The ultimate goal will be 'human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond'.
In the meantime, the US is closely involved in Europe's future satellite navigation system, Galileo - the US and the EU are currently negotiating an agreement to establish a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship between Galileo and the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The US has previously claimed that Galileo is unnecessary and that it could interfere with the GPS. Attitudes have, however, softened, and a recent US statement claims that 'productive policy and technical discussions [...] have moved both sides closer to agreement.' Talks will resume before the end of January. To read the full speech by George Bush, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/ 2004/01/20040114-3.html