Brussels, 11th February 2005
Opening of Earth and Space Exposition
Brussels, 11th February 2005
Your royal highness, Minister, Mr Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen, successful young winners.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today and to open this exposition ‘Earth & Space’.
Space is a place of excitement, of challenge, of risk. Last winter Europe held its breath for pictures from another world. We waited to know that Europe’s child – its brainchild – had safely travelled the vast distance from Earth to the planet Mars. We were thrilled by the pictures from Mars Express, chastened by the loss of its passenger Beagle 2.
This winter, Europe waited again to learn if the satellite Cassinni had reached even further afield, to visit Saturn and to carry there the Huygens lander. Scientists and their colleagues had planned and worked for ten years. They waited patiently for another seven during the epic journey. They were not disappointed. We were not disappointed. The mission was a great success and the European public were thrilled by the images of Saturn’s moon Titan.
The scientists equally satisfied by the knowledge they have gained, to contribute to our understanding of fundamental questions, relating to the origins of life itself.
These great undertakings are well represented in the exhibition downstairs. Who knows how many children, seeing them this week, will be inspired to emulate the great scientists and engineers who have made these achievements?
But space has another side. It is less glamorous but equally important. Space is a tool. We use it every day to speak to people on the other side of the world. Millions use it every day to watch their favourite sports team, or to be updated with news from around the globe.
We take space for granted. It is a vast commercial activity – building, launching and operating satellites and, most importantly, selling services to exploit their unique capabilities. Its effective use contributes to the competitiveness of millions of companies.
As well as being a commercial tool, satellites are a strategic asset to governments, and to Europe. The other part of the exhibition here shows how they can, and will, contribute to the security of life on this planet. The European Union and the European Space Agency are making this possible through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative.
Along with other measurements – from airborne vehicles, from buoys on the ocean, from roadside sampling stations – satellite information will allow us to monitor our environment. Through mathematical modelling, it will be possible to assess the impact on the environment and of better understanding the phenomena of global climate change.
We will also be better prepared to cope with natural disasters. The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative will map major risks, provide alert systems and enable us to respond more effectively.
This is the other aspect of the title of the exposition, the ‘Earth’ in Earth & Space. With this event we demonstrate that the European Union is taking greater responsibility for space as a strategic asset, in full agreement with the new provisions of the European Constitutional Treaty.
This exhibition will not only inspire the younger generation to appreciate the wonder of science and engineering. It will also stimulate the decision makers who visit and work in Brussels. It will stimulate them to appreciate the potential of space to contribute to knowledge-based policy making. The next week will underline this. We shall see several high-level meetings in Brussels, including the 3rd Earth Observation Summit with the participation of ministers and delegates from 55 countries.
I congratulate those who conceived the exhibition and the Earth & Space Week as a whole, in particular my former colleague and friend Philippe Busquin. I thank the Parliament for their recommendation for an international conference on space – it will be an honour for me next Thursday to welcome 400 delegates to Brussels to discuss how to enhance international co-operation. Finally, I congratulate those who have turned that concept into a visionary exhibition, able to touch equally the imaginations of exuberant youth and of worldly-wise politicians and administrators.
Your royal highness, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to open the Earth & Space exposition.