Europe's space community calls for continuation of manned spaceflight

February 24, 2003

Brussels, 21 Feb 2003

Reactions to the Commission's Green Paper on space have thus far focused on support for a stronger European position in space and the continuation of manned spaceflight.

Following the launch of the paper on 21 January, the Commission invited responses via an online forum. Points for discussion have been divided into 15 categories, the most popular being 'manned space flight' followed by 'independent access to space' and then 'international cooperation'.

'We are in no doubt that the space community has had its setbacks recently [...] and it is not at all surprising that there have been calls for curbing space exploration. This is a very understandable but shorted sighted view of the future,' writes Lee Edgar.

Mr Edgar also claims that now is the right time for the European Space Agency (ESA) to assert itself and claim a stronger position for itself in space: 'ESA, with its European industrial partners, is in a much better position than ever to surge forward and explore in more detail the commercial possibilities of this exploration as well as merely searching for knowledge.'

Praise for ESA comes from Jürgen Herholz, who claims that 'ESA has been and is a positive example of European cooperation in the interest of common goals.' However, Mr Herholz goes on to say that ESA and EU activities are to some extent overlapping and that 'coordination is absolutely necessary in order to ensure efficiency of the utilisation of European resources.' He proposes that a common structure be established at European level, covering both the necessary research work, which is currently predominantly ESA's sphere of activity, and the development of space infrastructures required to meet EU objectives. 'Separation of scientific objectives from commercial ones is not practical due to the fact that both use largely the same technologies,' says Mr Herholz.

Support for the continuation of manned spaceflight is extensive. Sandro Mancini from Belgium claims that this should be the main focus for ESA in the near future, although he adds that this would have to be done in cooperation with other space agencies because of the expense involved.

Others are less convinced of the need for non-European cooperation. Daniel Strand from Sweden argues that 'if ESA and the EU are serious about being an important partner in the ISS [international space station] programme, we (the EU) should make sure we are able to get people into space independently.

While some contributions claim that manned spaceflight is necessary to inspire a new generation of scientists and astronauts, one contributor highlights the impact that European manned spaceflight would have on others' views of the continent. 'do not underestimate the importance of image. If the whole world would see that 'old' Europe is technologically more advanced than the USA, this could help us a lot,' writes Sven Knuth.

The alternative to manned spaceflight - robots - is not received well by participants in the forum. Wim Mortelmans argues that robots can do only a fraction of what humans can do.

A series of events are foreseen to offer interested parties a further opportunity to participate in the space debate. Details will be published on the Commission's space website at the reference below. To participate in the forum, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/coreservices/f orum/index.cfm?forum=space

To see the Green Paper on Space, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/space/futur/gr eenpaper_en.html

For further information on the EU's activities in the field of space, please visit:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/space/index_en .html

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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