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Space exploration

Space exploration

The EU’s involvement in space exploration helps us to discover new frontiers while also stimulating technological innovation back on Earth in fields such as recycling, health, bio-technology, energy management, and environmental monitoring.

Space exploration as a political venture

Space exploration is a sector of strategic political importance for the EU and a hallmark of international cooperation.

A series of European ministerial conferences initiated in 2009 laid the ground for the establishment of an enlarged international mechanism for coordination and cooperation in space exploration – the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF). The objective of ISEF is to advance international dialogue on space exploration. The European Commission’s role is to prepare common European positions.

The United States hosted the last meeting in Washington D.C. on 9 January 2014. Japan will host the next meeting in 2016 or 2017.

European space exploration assets and achievements

Through individual EU countries and the European Space Agency (ESA), Europe has developed numerous world-class technical assets for space exploration, a first class scientific community, a competitive industry, and a wide technological base. European space exploration achievements include:

  • robotic exploration mission to the Moon and to Mars;
  • contributions to the International Space Station (ISS) including the development of the Columbus laboratory module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle;
  • research into microgravity and atmospheric re-entry;
  • the Huygens probe which successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan;
  • development of the Ariane family of rockets to deploy satellites into orbit;
  • the Rosetta mission with the Philae lander which is preforming a detailed study of a comet.

EU space exploration research

The Commission supports several research activities related to space exploration through Horizon 2020 where about EUR 30 million in funding is available for 2014 and 2015.

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