Wednesday

18th Oct 2017

EU to reveal space strategy, but leave exploring to the ESA

  • The International Space Station: Frank De Winne was the first European to lead the ISS in 2009 (Photo: European Space Agency)

The first European to command the International Space Station made the case on Friday (14 October) that Europe should continue to invest in space.

"People often think that space comes at high cost. This is really not true. Space is not a cost for the European citizen, it is an investment," said Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne, during the opening ceremony of an exhibit at the European Space Expo, in Brussels.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • De Winne: 'I think it's good that the European Commission today focuses on the services directly benefiting the citizen.' (Photo: Peter Teffer)

De Winne, head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, said investing in space is an investment in humanity.

"I flew to space. I was very lucky to see our Earth from above. If you see our planet from above, you see that there are no borders. They do not exist in reality," said De Winne.

Speaking to EUobserver, De Winne explored his thoughts on humanity and the role of the European Union in the future of space exploration.

"Up there, we are all citizens of the world," said De Winne. However, he added that "of course" that does not erase cultural differences.

"Just because there are no borders, that doesn't mean that you don't have an affiliation. Even if you live in a small country like Belgium, I'm still born in Ghent, so I feel affiliated with Ghent. I'm from Flanders, so I feel affiliated with Flanders."

"I'm a Belgian guy, but I'm also European, and also a citizen of the world."

And a popular citizen to boot, as became clear after his speech, when he was thronged by those who wanted a picture with him.

De Winne has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) - a body separate to the European Union, although with which it shares many members - since being selected as a candidate in 1998.

Brexit, problems up there

While the EU has supranational elements, the ESA is purely intergovernmental.

That means that while the United Kingdom may leave the EU, it can remain part of ESA.

According to De Winne, the Brits have already made it "very clear" that they want to stay in the ESA, and that "they want the ESA to remain a strong European space agency".

But, he also added, Brexit will have an impact.

"Today, the pound has lost value compared to the euro. As we are doing most of our programmes in euros in the European Space Agency, this could be a loss of purchasing power."

"We will have to look how things unfold, and try to make the best of it," he added.

A space strategy for Europe

De Winne spoke after European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, who announced a new European space strategy is due before the end of the year, some sources suggesting it could be as soon as October's end.

Establishing "a coherent and stable regulatory framework for the service and manufacturing of space applications in Europe and exploiting the internal market and job-creating potential of space", are just one part of Jean-Claude Junker's grand plans.

Maros Sefcovic with Frank De Winne: "I am sure that Mars would be probably more thrilling" (Photo: Peter Teffer)

However, the EU does not intend to compete with ESA in the field of space exploration, this despite Sefcovic quoting Star Trek, calling space: the "final frontier".

The ESA is "better equipped for that", the Slovak commissioner told EUobserver on Friday.

"What we are responsible for is to create the appropriate framework."

"We are one of their major clients because of our satellite launches, and we have good working relations, so I'm sure we can really support each other," Sefcovic said.

The strategy paper is "written by us, but we consulted very closely with them", he added.

Astronaut De Winne hopes that the document acknowledges the significance of the space sector.

"It's important for humanity, it's important for the European citizen. What I also hope to read is that within Europe we will all work together to get the maximum benefits out of space, be it science, be it knowledge, be it exploration, be it services, be it Galileo, be it Copernicus."

Galileo is the EU's navigation programme, while Copernicus is the EU's Earth observation programme.

"I think it's good that the European Commission today focuses on the services directly benefiting the citizen. This is what the European Union is about," said De Winne.

Benefiting citizens is also the main goal behind the idea for a Moon village, coined last year by ESA boss Johann-Dietrich Woerner.

"It's not the idea to go there and build a village and then just have a little community there that lives there. No; how can we bring the benefits of the Moon and exploration on the Moon back to the citizens here on Earth?," said De Winne.

The Moon or Mars?

De Winne also noted that discussions about future space exploration are often presented as choices: Mars or Moon, robotic or human.

"This is not necessary at all. We understand that if we want to go to Mars, probably we have to pass via the Moon again."

EUobserver posed the question to EU commissioner Sefcovic: the Moon or Mars?

"If I would have to choose, I am sure that Mars would be probably more thrilling," said Sefcovic.

"But I think for what I could get permission from my wife, it would probably be the Moon because there is a bigger chance that I would come back!"

The European Space Expo is free to visit on Brussels' Place de la Monnaie, until 25 October 2016

Brexit could affect UK space industry

If UK nationals vote to leave the EU, there would be little effect on the country's European cooperation on space activities. But British companies may lose business opportunities.

EU's new strategy shuns space exploration

The commission wants to focus on the commercial potential of space rather than the educational or scientific benefits, much to the annoyance of some MEPs.

Stakeholder

Silicones - enabling the next big leap in prosthetics and health

Prosthetics have been used for hundreds of years, but for much of that time saw little technological development. Today, it is possible to replace lost limbs with high-tech prosthetics made with silicone, that function seamlessly and provide a natural appearance.

Analysis

Endocrine legislation could be delayed years after veto

MEPs last week blocked the European Commission's proposal to define hormone-disrupting chemicals, saying it did not go far enough to protect human health. They may inadvertently have kicked EU legislation on the matter into the next parliamentary term.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish Court declares Catalan referendum law void
  2. EU to keep 'Dieselgate' letter secret
  3. No deal yet on Mediterranean alliance for EU agencies
  4. EU Commission condemns Maltese journalist's murder
  5. Poland denies wrongdoing over forest logging
  6. Risk to asylum kids in EU increasing, says charity
  7. Schroeder warns of Turkey and Russia drifting towards China
  8. EU parliament wants equal pay for posted workers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU rejects UK claim it's slowing Brexit talks
  2. Nepal troops arrive in Libya to guard UN refugee agency
  3. Is Banking Authority HQ the Brexit 'booby prize'?
  4. EU-Russia trade bouncing back - despite sanctions
  5. No sign of Brexit speed-up after May-Juncker dinner
  6. EU defence strategy 'outsourced' to arms industry
  7. EU privacy rules tilt to industry, NGO says
  8. Malta in shock after car bomb kills crusading journalist

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  2. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  3. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  4. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  8. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  9. CESIJoin CESI@Noon on October 18 and Debate On: 'European Defence Union: What Next?'
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups
  11. ILGA EuropeInternational Attention Must Focus on LGBTI People in Azerbaijan After Police Raids
  12. European Jewish CongressStrong Results of Far Right AfD Party a Great Concern for Germans and European Jews