International cooperation in space is the way forward, says Lord Sainsbury

July 26, 2004

Brussels, 23 Jul 2004

At a space seminar at the Farnborough air show in the UK on 21 July, the UK Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, encouraged the international community to cooperate further to achieve common space goals.

A principal common goal, explained the minister, is to make the most of space's potential to develop a wide range of first-rate services and applications that can improve people's everyday lives.

'Space has enormous potential to improve our lives. This potential can be realised most effectively by working together with international partners,' said Lord Sainsbury. 'We do take different approaches in some areas, and often set different priorities and objectives. But we also have far more in common, and working together offers us the best way of achieving our diverse goals.'

As an example, Lord Sainsbury mentioned the recent agreement between the EU and the US, which ensures compatibility and non-interference between the US GPS satellite navigation system and the new European civilian satellite navigation system, Galileo.

'Galileo is expected to offer a huge range of high-quality services and applications and is a tremendous example of how ESA [the European Space Agency] and the European Union can work together effectively for the interests of their member states,' the minister said. Galileo, Lord Sainsbury added, is a perfect example of how to use space for broader purposes.

According to the minister, international cooperation success stories can be found in many different fields, such as Earth observation science and space and planetary exploration. Lord Sainsbury mentioned the Cassini-Huygen's ESA-NASA collaboration, as well as plans for planetary exploration currently being developed on both sides of the Atlantic.

'I am excited to see NASA taking this initiative forward. I look forward to learning of projects where we may share common objectives, and which could offer scope for working together. ESA's 'Aurora' Exploration programme has been under development for some years and clearly has many similarities. Aurora is beginning to take shape and I have great hopes that it will develop into a proposal that will offer the UK an opportunity to meet our objectives, with a strong focus on robotic exploration.'

Indeed, Lord Sainsbury explained that the UK's priority in space is very much centred on robotic technology 'which currently offers by far the greatest scientific value relative to investment'.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General of ESA and also speaking at Farnborough, said: 'ESA's recent successful science missions - SMART 1, Mars Express, Cassini/Huygens, Rosetta - and those to be launched in the coming years - Venus Express and the James Webb Space Telescope for instance - clearly show that Europe has already embarked on the exploration of the Solar system, and has already engaged itself in strong cooperation with NASA.'

'We at ESA,' added Mr Dordain, 'share with our NASA colleagues and those at other agencies an ambitious programme of space exploration with the aim to safely land men and women on Mars and get them back to Earth. No doubt mankind will set foot on the Red Planet within this century, and I am convinced that, when the time will come, even if we will not be in the driver's seat, you can be sure that passengers and parts of the 'engine' will have the label 'Made in Europe'.'

For more information about ESA, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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