NewsAutonomous access: backing for Europe's all-plans

Autonomous access: backing for Europe's all-plans

The space agency Esa wants to strengthen Europe’s role in space travel. Politicians welcome the plans. A central topic is now being discussed by experts who do not necessarily have anything to do with space.

Toulouse – The discussion about autonomous access to space for Europe is picking up speed. An independent specialist group is to deal with manned space research for Europe in the future and report to the European Space Agency Esa and its member countries in the autumn.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher 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 coming decade.”

In contrast to other giants in space travel, Europe does not have autonomous access to the cosmos, 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

The ESA astronauts are currently flying with the US space agency Nasa. In recent years, with the commercialization of space travel, private providers have also made the way into the cosmos possible. Europe lagged behind. According to Aschbacher, Europe cannot afford not to have autonomous access to space.

Whether this will ultimately happen is still an open question. The experts should now advise and help “make the right decision,” as Aschbacher said. The group should consist of experts from all walks of life, most of them not from space travel. The areas of art and philosophy should also be represented in the independent body.

The independence of Europe also played a decisive role in other strategic issues in Toulouse. France’s 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 autonomous European network for Internet reception. One does not want to be dependent on the USA or China in this area. French President Emmanuel Macron called space the “key to all our independence”. Space is therefore a European priority.

Reduce CO2 emissions in a more targeted manner

Macron also said space could be a key factor in reducing CO2 emissions. An ESA project to better use Earth observation data to mitigate climate change received support from ministers. In the long term, the project should also help to make the economy low-carbon.

The European Union ministers responsible for space and ESA also discussed the protection of infrastructure in space and the control of space debris. Le Maire said: “Space is neither a Wild West nor a garbage can.”

The Toulouse Summit brought together a meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers and an informal meeting of the relevant ministers of the European Union. Macron emphasized the need to create a common European space strategy. According to Le Maire, the European ambition in space was confirmed in Toulouse. Esa also wrote about resolutions that should help Europe play a leading role in space travel. A new space summit is targeted for 2023. dpa

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