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Co-operation in space gets major boost
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Arrow  Over 40 nations and more than 20 international organisations came together at the ‘Winning through co-operation’ conference in Brussels, on 17 February 2005. High representatives from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, the Russian Space Agency and the European Union, and many others, discussed past, present and future international space endeavours.

Commission Vice-President Verheugen offers hand of co-operation
Commission Vice-President Verheugen offers hand of co-operation
“Single countries cannot go it alone in space,” said European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Industry and Enterprise Günter Verheugen. “Co-operation is key today for every space faring nation.” Outlining the benefits of space activities to both society and industry, he stressed the political momentum currently pushing Europe forward in the space arena. “Space and space technologies are indispensable strategic assets,” he said, “critical tools for the implementation of a number of key EU policies. The EU now sees space as a fundamental part of its Lisbon strategy, which underlines science and technology as a means of strengthening our industrial competitiveness.”

Representing the Luxembourg EU Presidency, Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research Octavia Modert said, “Space has always been a place of mystery, a source of knowledge, the stuff of dreams, but it also represents applications that contribute to the daily lives of citizens. The European space sector must not fold in on itself, but must co-operate with the rest of the world, because we are facing global challenges.”

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain outlined many ongoing co-operative space missions, including the Huygens probe, Mars Express, the International Space Station, and other projects with Russia, the United States, China, Canada and others. “All of these examples,” he said, provide solid ground for Europe as an important space partner. That doesn’t mean it is easy. Co-operation is difficult from day one, and we only see the benefits when we come to the end, but the things we are doing in space are amazing and they require the best from all of us.”

Representing the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations, which a day earlier delivered its plan for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems to the EO Summit, GEO Co-Chair Tetsuhisa Shirakawa said, “We recognise the remarkable recent developments in European Space Policy. We appreciate your recent White Paper, and your important Galileo and GMES initiatives, and we congratulate ESA for its successful Ariane 5 launch.”

Shirakawa explained recent moves to establish a coordinated international disaster warning and preventing system, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami. My Prime Minister Koizumi is convinced of the necessity of co-operation for the prevention of natural disasters. Earth Observation is critical for this and Japan is now actively promoting the transfer of space technologies and expertise through co-operative activities.”

The view from space

The conference was treated to a live conversation with the occupants of the International Space Station. American Leroy Chiao and Russian Salizhan Sharipov greeted the assembled audience, wishing them every success. Speaking from the conference were ESA Astronaut André Kuipers and Russian Federal Space Agency Head Anatoly Perminov. “Everything is fine here,” said Perminov. “We are moving forward with success and we look forward to your safe return.”

Space lends competitive edge

The recent shift of the EU space dossier from its Research Directorate-General to Industry and Enterprise signals a new emphasis on space as a booster of European economic competitiveness and as a key to solidifying Europe’s place as a world economic and political player. “There is an important industrial dimension here,” said Verheugen. “One of the fundamental responsibilities of the European Union is to guard the prosperity and well-being of its citizens. There is also a clear security dimension to space and space technologies. Along with political support, however, we must have financial support. The EU is now seeking to double the amount it spends on research and development, and I can assure you that space activities and research will also see substantial increases.”

Perminov, Verheugen, Dordain
Perminov, Verheugen, Dordain
But European industry is already seeking to capitalise on one major European space project. “GMES is on the way,” said Pascale Sourisse, President of EUROSPACE. Reporting from the EO Industry Summit, which took place a day earlier, she said, “There are already pre-operational and operational services being provided and the providers are now enthusiastic and eager to develop new services, based on specific user needs.” GMES is the joint EU-ESA Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative, bringing together EO data sources to provide comprehensive and user-oriented environmental information services. It is one of three EU space pillars, along with the Galileo satellite navigation initiative and broadband telecommunications.

The conference on ‘Winning through co-operation’ signals a new and stronger emphasis on coordinated, rational and well-managed space activities. “We reach for the stars,” said Verheugen, “but we bring the benefits back to our citizens here on Earth.



 
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