Brussels, 15 Dec 2003
The President of Euroscience, Jean-Patrick Connerade, has written to EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin suggesting that the Commission tops up the European Space Agency's financial resources, allowing two missions that were recently cancelled to go ahead.
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced in November that it was forced to cancel two space missions - the Bepi Colombo probe which was to land on the surface of the planet Mercury, and the Eddington satellite, which was to investigate planets similar to Earth using seismology. The mission was approved in 2002, and much work had therefore already been carried out.
'Here the gulf between the ambitions of the White Paper [on space] and the reality of European space research is underlined,' states the Euroscience letter.
The letter highlights the unfortunate timing of the decision by ESA, which was taken following the consultation on the Green Paper and a few days before the publication of the White Paper, which recognises the need 'to progressively increase the budget of ESA and that of national agencies devoted to space research.'
'In order to avoid once again the establishment of a painful gap between promises and actions,' Euroscience suggests that the Commission makes available to ESA the necessary funding for these missions to go ahead. Another option mentioned in the letter is assistance from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The letter acknowledges the funding constraints put on the Commission by the Treaty, but claims nonetheless that a political action is urgent, and could gain the support of Member States.
'In this way, the year 2004 could be not that of a definitive end to these missions, but one of expectation for a new start,' concludes the letter.
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