Press Release

ESF’s Space Sciences Committee presents its statement at the ESA’s Ministerial Conference

By SpaceRef Editor
December 3, 2008
Filed under ,
ESF’s Space Sciences Committee presents its statement at the ESA’s Ministerial Conference

The European Space Agency (ESA) Council at ministerial level has been held this week in Den Haag, The Netherlands. The European Space Sciences Committee of the European Science Foundation (ESSC-ESF), the leading European independent advisory body on matters of space sciences, attended the conference as observer, and delivered an oral statement to the ministers at the beginning of the conference, extracted from the ESSC detailed position paper circulated at the end of October2008.

The following comments pertain to the decisions taken in Den Haag, and to the components of ESA’s programmes relevant for scientific activities.

Concerning the level of funding for ESA’s optional programmes, the ESSC welcomes the efforts made by ESA Member States in important areas for science and in line with its recommendations, particularly:

  • For the Exploration Programme, with the high strategic priority given by ministers to the robotic exploration of Mars with the Enhanced ExoMars Mission Component. This clear priority is in line with the ESSC recommendation that the different objectives of the Exploration programme must not be allowed to deplete the other scientific programmes. The full cost of this mission is still not covered by by the contributions though and the ESA Executive has the responsibitily to find ways to fully fund thi mission.
  • For GMES/Kopernikus (programme subscribed at 97% of the Director General’s request) and Meteosat Third Generation (over-subscription at 110% of the Director General’s request).

We also welcome the efforts made to initiate preparatory activities during the period of 2009-2012 in the area of European transportation and human exploration, as well as future launchers development. In the field of Life and Physical sciences in space (ELIPS), the ministers did not grant the 395 M Euro requested by the ESA’s Director General. However the relative level of that subscription is now much higher than what was granted at the 2005 Ministerial Conference in Berlin. A sign that ESA Meber States want to take stock of Europe’s priviledged position in these research areas, after the installation of the Columbus orbital laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS). This is a first step in the right direction that will enable Europe and its scientific community to start reaping the benefits of the significant investments made on the ISS, and to sharply increase science utilisation and return with Columbus laboratory.

Concerning the level of resources for ESA’s mandatory activities in 2009-2013, and in particular its mandatory scientific programme, ESSC acknowledges the steps taken to increase the budget of this programme by 3.5% per annum at 2008 economic conditions, although the resulting annual contributions are still well below our recommendation to reach 500 million O per annum, as the funding level required to enable the timely realisation of the ambitious Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. We would like to emphasise that this decision risks forcing Europe to delay and/or cancel some of the missions planned within that programme.

In the area of Earth observation, the Climate Change Initiative is being funded, albeit at less than 50% of the ESA Director General’s request.

Concerning the management of space data, the ESSC-ESF has recommended that ways be found to support the analysis, interpretation, archiving, and distribution of space data and thus generate a high-quality return on the investments made by Europe in building satellites and outstanding instruments; in particular the ESSC-ESF encouraged ESA and the European Commission (EC) to consider the relevant mechanisms for the funding scientific database exploitation techniques.

Although no formal commitment to that end was made at the conference, the acknowledged good working relations between the EC and ESA mark the right direction and we strongly encourage further exchanges and decisions on this subject.

Media contact:

Mr. Thomas LauE-Mail

Science contact:

Dr. Jean-Claude WormsE-Mail

SpaceRef staff editor.