Space exploration is perhaps the most captivating of all space activities and satisfies the natural human desire to discover new frontiers beyond our planet. It generates very tangible benefits for citizens: mobile phones, medical equipment that we find in hospitals' intensive care units and airbags all trace their origin back to technologies developed in the early days of space exploration. Space exploration is a motor for innovation, technological development and scientific knowledge. Furthermore, 50 years after the first human flight to space, it remains a clear attribute of any true world power. Europe's involvement in space exploration enhances thus its visibility through the development of international cooperation and provides a stream of scientific information that is advancing research. Human exploration in particular generates societal benefits by stimulating technological innovation in fields such as recycling, health, bio-technology, energy management or environment monitoring. It inspires and motivates also the next generations to embrace careers in science and technology.
Space exploration activities in Europe
Europe, through ESA and individual Member States, has already made significant contributions to space exploration. European involvement with the International Space Station (ISS), in particular the development of the Columbus laboratory module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, together with the presence of European astronauts onboard ISS, secures a continuing visible European presence in space. Other prominent European achievements are the Huygens lander on Titan that has marked the farthest landing in the Solar System so far. The future ExoMars rover, that will be the first rover ever to probe directly the Martian sub-surface for extinct and extant life before the end of this decade is the next major European robotic exploration mission. The EU endorses Europe's efforts to engage in space exploration for the sake of knowledge, science and technological progress and to affirm its position as a world player.
EU and international space exploration - a policy issue
Sustaining an ambitious space exploration programme is beyond the individual capabilities of most countries. International cooperation has therefore become a fundamental element of any long-term resilient space exploration strategy. The EU is actively involved in international political discussions on space exploration.