International cooperation key to future success in space

July 22, 2004

Paris, 21 Jul 2004

UK Science Minister Lord Sainsbury says agencies working together will achieve space goals

UK Science Minister Lord Sainsbury today joined with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to promote a future of close cooperation to achieve diverse goals in space.

Lord Sainsbury outlined his vision for the UK's future in space at this year's Farnborough Airshow. Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, and Rear Admiral Craig Steidle (Ret.) Associate Administrator for NASA's Office of Exploration Systems, joined him at a special press conference to mark the show's first-ever "Space Day".

Lord Sainsbury told an audience which included representatives from the UK, European and US space industry: "Space has enormous potential to improve our lives. This potential can be realised most effectively by working together with international partners".

"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."

The Minister referred to past and present success, stemming from close working within the international community. He also welcomed the recent agreement between the EU and US, which will enable Galileo, the new European civilian satellite navigation system, to complement existing US GPS services.

Lord Sainsbury added: "The Galileo system is a strong example of one of the UK's main priorities – using space where it offers a cost-effective way of meeting our broader objectives. Galileo is expected to offer a huge range of high-quality services and applications and is a tremendous example of how ESA and the European Union can work together effectively for the interests of their member states".

"International collaboration is also driving forward our advances in Earth observation science. Of particular importance to the UK is our contribution of the High resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) to NASA's Aura mission to study the planet's atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy."

The Minister also pointed to strong collaboration between US, UK and European scientists in space exploration, with the joint NASA/ESA mission to Saturn already beginning to bear fruit. "Cassini-Huygens is a great success story of Europe and the US working together to achieve common goals with clear responsibilities. NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now circling the planet while later this year ESA's Huygens probe will plunge into the cloudy atmosphere of its largest moon, Titan."

Lord Sainsbury emphasised the difficult choices the UK has to make when investing in space, and outlined continuing priorities for Britain in space. As set out in the UK Space Strategy 2003-06, these include developing satellite technology to improve our everyday lives, Earth observation and space exploration using cutting edge robotic technology. "Our focus is very much on exploiting robotic technology. The great advances made in this field offer us an excellent and cost-effective way of expanding our knowledge of our own solar system and of the universe. I have already mentioned Rosetta, Mars Express and Cassini-Huygens missions, parts of a series of top quality missions using robotic technology, which currently offers by far the greatest scientific value relative to investment."

Lord Sainsbury also welcomed recent moves on both sides of the Atlantic to develop plans for planetary exploration, saying of President Bush's vision: "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."

Mr Dordain 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 a strong cooperation with NASA. In a wider context, ESA intends to develop the knowledge required to master the whole architecture of a large exploration programme, including human elements".

"We are working on a robust yet flexible scenario that can take into account an evolving international context. Two missions, two building blocks where Europe can best exploit its scientific and industrial expertise and capabilities are already on the drawing boards: ExoMars that will take a rover to Mars in 2009 and a Mars sample return mission in 2013".

"We at ESA share with our NASA colleagues and those at other agencies an ambitious programme of space exploration with the aim to safely land man 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."

Adm. Steidle said: "The United States is planning to boldly explore our solar system and it is NASA's hope that the UK and ESA will join us as we embark on an exciting journey to return to the Moon as early as 2015, and then extend a human presence to Mars and other destinations."

European Space Agency ml
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