Toulouse (dpa) – The debate over Europe’s independent access to space is accelerating. An independent specialist group will handle future manned space research for Europe and report to ESA and its member states in the fall.
The European Space Agency’s Director General, Joseph Asbacher, welcomed the mandate to create the group at the Space Summit in Toulouse, southern France, on Wednesday. “This decision will shape what Europe will look like in the next decade.”
Unlike other giants in space travel, Europe does not have independent access to the universe, so it cannot send astronauts into space itself. Although there is a European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, there is no European spacecraft for manned flights.
Strategic questions play a role
ESA astronauts currently fly with NASA. In recent years, with the commercialization of spaceflight, private providers have made the way to the universe possible. Europe has lagged behind. According to Aschbacher, Europe cannot afford not to have independent access to space.
Whether this will eventually happen is still an open question. Experts should now offer advice and help “make the right decision,” Asbacher said. The group should consist of experts from all walks of life, most of whom are not from space travel. The fields of art and philosophy must also be represented in the independent body.
The independence of Europe also played a crucial role in other strategic issues in Toulouse. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who chaired the ESA Council of Ministers and the informal meeting of EU ministers in Toulouse, stressed the importance of an independent European network to receive the Internet. One does not want to depend on the United States or China for this. French President Emmanuel Macron has described space as “the key to our entire independence”. So space is a European priority.
Reducing CO2 emissions in a more targeted way
Macron also said that space could be a major factor in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The European Space Agency’s project to improve the use of Earth observation data to mitigate climate change has received support from ministers. In the long term, the project should also help make the economy low carbon.
The European Union Ministers Responsible for Space and the European Space Agency also discussed the protection of infrastructure in space and the monitoring of space debris. “Space is neither a wild west nor a rubbish bin,” said Le Maire.
The Toulouse Summit brought together a meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers and an informal meeting of relevant EU ministers. Macron stressed the need to create a common European space strategy. According to Le Maire, the European ambition in space was confirmed in Toulouse. Esa has also written about decisions that should help Europe play a leading role in space travel. A new space summit is scheduled for 2023.
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