Space is back! Fifty years after the first manned mission to the moon, people are once again enthusiastically cheering on astronauts as they embark on their journey to the International Space Station (ISS). In the 1950s and 1960s, space travel was dominated by the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Today there are even more interested parties: Besides the US and Russia, China, India, Israel, and even private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. What role should Europe play in this gaggle of space players?

Many European countries have their own space ambitions, but they could not keep up with the budgets of NASA or Soviet spaceflight. That is why the European Space Agency (ESA) was founded in 1975 to coordinate European space activities. Its mission is to “provide for and promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in the field of space science and technology and their applications in space, in order that they may be used for scientific purposes and for operational space application systems.” How successful is ESA in fulfilling this objective?

What do our readers think? You sent us questions and comments, which we passed on to a space expert at an event organised by our sister think tank Friends of Europe: Eric Morel de Westgaver, Director of European, Legal and International Affairs at the European Space Agency.

First, our reader Marcel sent us this comment:

Space research that serves people is always good. That’s why I welcome research by private individuals who don’t have war and armaments on their minds, but rather [care about space exploration] for people.

One thing above all is important to our reader Serina:

The important thing is to go back to the basics of a treaty that was once concluded (on the subject of outer space). And keep to it without any ifs and buts!

You can see how Eric Morel de Westgaver responded in the video at the top of this post.

What should Europe’s role be in space? Should more Europeans invest in space? Are international actors abiding by the Outer Space Treaty? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: NASA. Portrait: ESA-Stephane Corvaja
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

31 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar

    For her to return safe and sound !

  2. avatar

    It can’t be a leader in foreign policy, energy and so many more, and it dreams of becoming a leader in space?

  3. avatar

    There is millions of EU citizens living in poverty, that literally have nothing to eat and these ignorants want to be leaders in space? For what benefit?

  4. avatar

    You are asking this question as if it’s a matter of simply deciding to do it. It’s not. There are 5 steps to accomplish something:
    1. You have to want it.
    2. You have to know how to do it.
    3. You have to be able to do it.
    4. You have to try it.
    5. It has to happen.
    Most people usually fail at step 3 and many of them on step 2. Europe with its space ambitions would probably fail at step 3 at best.

  5. avatar

    I think we should certainly fight by any means possible the take-over of everything and the public space by the super-rich, oligarchs, plutocrats and the likes. This is the real threat. As for going to space, why not, I thought we were already in space. Controlled privatisation is better than militarisation; that at least is for sure.

  6. avatar

    Yes, Europe should take its place over research in all fields

  7. avatar

    Why are you wasting our money exploring Space? First, help citizens, and if there is any money left spend it on space.

    • avatar
      JT HK

      This is reasonable in the sense of priority when Europe is in great instability stirred up by the Russia and Ukraine conflict. However, I have just discovered from a Chinese video that one important mission of the space technology is to improve the agricultural production. In this sense, exploring the space for peaceful means, in a long run would benefit the country and even the whole world.

  8. avatar
    EU-Reform Proactive

    Sorry- rather late than never.

    ESA- – is a 22 member strong European international- intergovernmental org. & a valuable contributor to global space exploration and is to its participating European member states what NASA is to its US citizens.

    ESA is already a leader in European/global space exploration and an asset to its national member states! Is there an agenda behind such an innocent question?

    My concern:

    The initial aim of the EU was to make the independent European Space Agency (ESA) an agency of the EU by 2014“.
    Enough reasons to be alert & cautious!

    “In June 2021, the ESA Director General called a group of independent, high-level advisors to assess the economic, societal and POLITICAL role of space in an evolving global context and against emerging challenges.
    The mandate of the High-Level Advisory group was to advise the ESA Director General on directions and actions for ESA to realise ambitious goals, together with OTHER stakeholders, serving the future of Europe and its citizens. The present report is a summary of our deliberations and our recommendations to the ESA Director General”

    Decisions on whether to hand over ESA to total/partial EU supranational (political) control or full privatisation should be left to the 22 European founding nations of ESA- not to some globalist elites & bankers or EU political Shinigami.

    To “accelerate” ESA’s progress means- more funds for ESA.

    From whom/where & on what terms remains to be explained! Or did I miss that? Surely, ESA’s national members are capable enough to figure that out.

    With a slogan- “Forward to the moon”- propelled by science & scientists and so far with minimal political interference/advice by their national owners- why the sudden need for outside “Advisors”?

    We know that some national politicians are overworked to outsource their combined thinking- and in dire need of outside advisers.

    What may be the “(comparative) advantage” whether funded directly from the budget of its combined 22 ESA sovereign nations (+any other derived income/donors)- plus an open membership invite to more European nations-
    via a political middleman- like the EU? Probably producing less funding for the actual cause due to additional bureaucracy & advisory costs- financed or borrowed on behalf of its national members- only with an EU sticker attached?

    Does the EU- (“Europe”) genuinely care about science & research, or is it mainly an opportunity to add more political competencies & control?

    Below is an article- “Boon or burden? What has the EU ever done for science?”

    I note that neither ESA/Europe nor US/NASA are partner/funding countries in the greatest future science project- called the “SKA Observatory”? A truly international mega endeavour of 14 nations- which surprisingly includes China.

    Australia: Department of Industry and Science
    Canada: National Research Council
    China: Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China
    France: National Center for Scientific Research
    Germany: Max Planck Society
    India: National Centre for Radio Astrophysics
    Italy: National Institute for Astrophysics
    The Netherlands: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
    Portugal: Portugal Space
    South Africa: National Research Foundation
    Spain: Ministry of Science, Innovation & Universities
    Sweden: Onsala Space Observatory
    Switzerland: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
    United Kingdom: Science and Technology Facilities Council

    Are we discovering new political black holes vs political white holes?

    • avatar
      Teri Tsang

      what a joke a laughingstock is all about Jealous of USA Space X

  9. avatar
    JT HK

    Why people always use vocabularies demagogic politicians have been using to justify aggression and confrontation? Democracy should not be viewed from a confrontational perspective. It can be about a civilized political system to compete for good governance for the good of the people. Becoming a leader means to submit all others. Why people and countries cannot cooperate and living peacefully and respect each other? The essences of democracy on liberty, equality, fraternity, legality and of course fair election. It is clearly a multilateral system and emphasize on peaceful co-existence and cooperation. This is the reality of the global era.

  10. avatar
    JT HK

    Privatization of space is equal to open the pandora box for human destruction. We can see very clearly without the support of the government all brilliant European enterprises are vulnerable to dismemberment or takeover by foreign governments. Without the powerful intervention of the Chinese people and the Government, Huawei Meng Wanzhou would be put in jail like Alsom’s Frederic Pierucci.

  11. avatar
    JT HK

    Privatization? Why his SpaceX had approached the Chinese Tiangong? Elon Musk’s “private enterprise”, “civilian use” of satellites do not reflect its announced nature.

  12. avatar

    Would be great to figure out element 115 first 🙂

  13. avatar
    JT HK

    As we have learned that Russia has officially notified to terminate the cooperation in 2024, rather than dreaming about the space and the moon, would political leaders please open your eyes to the rocketing inflation threatening European citizens, 2 million UK adults cannot afford to eat everyday, US rising babies formula crisis, at least 14 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition around the … poverty and lack of access to available, sufficient, nutritious food, etc.

  14. avatar

    EU /America better start with restoring it’s own economy instead talking about space race lol

  15. avatar

    Of course. Europe must have power and independance towards USA

  16. avatar

    Is nice to spend Europe money and the people hanger’s,petrol 225 per litre soon 320

    • avatar

      Freedoom is more precious.

  17. avatar

    sure… with what money? More debt?
    with what expertise? Russian? Chinese? Once the Russians are gone the ISS is a goner.

  18. avatar

    I have an opinion on this topic! Definitely yes! As argument, I bring a fun situation from 2015! I tried to read a sci-fi book written long time ago in English to learn this language better. The day before, it was spread on FB that artificial intelligence would take our jobs … The topic with the planet Mars had also begun. In about five pages the author describes how wifi works and what it can do. I said, that’s what happened Today! For a few days I said the hell about evolution and all schools. And I decided not to touch the computer anymore. Then I swung! The church still remembers the apocalypse. I said, settling on another planet cancels out this scarecrow. Until 1600 humanity smelled of butchery, which was healthy going to war can escape, the one who was clearly ill does not escape. So I said that school was good and without it what could I do instead? To shorten the comment, as a student I read Isaac Asimov and I found out about the laws of robotics. If the new rules are chosen for the expansion to be done for the benefit of the planet earth, it is logical. Resources that are depleted can be brought in from outside and the school is looking for next challenges.

    • avatar

      This is the kind of thinking that’s challenging!

  19. avatar

    We cannot manage even things here on Earth 🤷 For sure we have to spend on Space as a lot of science going on there which make a lot of sense down here but it should be broad cooperation to make this more affordable.

  20. avatar
    JT HK

    This is a global era, with what any region can become a global leader in space alone, particularly when EU solidarity is under question? China can build up its own space technology and become a new leader is because it is under a strong leadership of the Community Party which has been contributing to consistent economic growth for the past 4 decades and faithfully realizing the 5-year plans. With its own 1/5 world population, China itself is already a small world system. By overcoming all sanctions and exclusions in all technology aspects, China has secured itself a solid foundation for growth and development by now. What Europe need to do is go back to reality and find its original mission on collective security for peace and prosperity. Without a peaceful environment without investment flow in the Eurasia continent, Europe cannot even has the required momentum for its own growth, space leadership is just day dreaming.

  21. avatar
    JT HK

    With Alstom’s bitter experience, Europe better solve the problem how to avoid investment be stolen or robbed by the US before investing in its own space technology. As we can see all multinational enterprises of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan if not being destroyed, the US would be their dominant shareholder and genuinely under the US control. We can also see that the US is now forcing big IT companies of Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan to share business data. They are also forced to move their advance production to the US. Investing in space technology if not fully protected, Europe is equal to investing for the US to dominate.

    • avatar
      Teri Tsang

      why are EU so jealous of US what a joke a laughingstock is all about Jealous of USA Space X

  22. avatar
    JT HK

    If you can’t protect your own sea bed, you are heading towards poverty and deindustrialization. With what you become a leader in space?

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