European Space Ministers Emphasize Space-Based Infrastructure, Exploration

European Space Ministers Emphasize Space-Based Infrastructure, Exploration

The space ministers of the European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA) met on November 25 in Brussels, Belgium for the seventh time since the two organizations signed a framework agreement in 2004. The two groups have overlapping, but not identical, memberships. The EU is a political body, while ESA is technical. The two have worked together on the European Galileo navigation satellite system and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program for several years.

The Space Council meeting took place as part of a meeting of the Council of the European Union on “Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space).” A press release from the EU said that the Council “endorsed a resolution on the orientations to be taken so that Europe can continue to develop world-class space infrastructures and applications, and to rely on efficient space systems to serve its citizens.” The Galileo and GMES programs were given special emphasis.

Among its many points, the resolution itself “ACKNOWLEDGES the increasing dependence of the European economy and policies … on space assets and the critical nature of space infrastructures for autonomous European decision making….” It also “NOTES the EU’s proposal for a Code of Conduct in Outer Space” and “RECOGNISES the need for a future Space Situational Awareness (SSA) capability as an activity at European level…”

Article 189 of the Lisbon Treaty, which went into force in December 2009, gives the EU an explicit role not only in European space applications like Galileo and GMES, but also in space exploration. The resolution issued yesterday “CONSIDERS” that Europe’s robotic and human space exploration program should be undertaken “within a worldwide programme” developed by building upon existing international partnerships. The International Space Station (ISS) is specifically cited as an example. The resolution “TAKES NOTE” of the decision by some ISS partners to extend operations of the ISS until at least 2020 and stresses the need to effectively utilize the facility.

Regarding space exploration, the resolution “STRESSES the strong common interest of Member States in Mars exploration” and “CALLS UPON the European Commission and ESA [Director General], jointly, to develop and propose a European exploration strategy…”

ESA issued its own press release, quoting Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain as saying that the Lisbon Treaty with its Article 189 is “good news for space, good news for Europe and good news for ESA. It allows us not to do the same thing differently, but to do more, together.”

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