Press Release

Green paper on Europe’s Space Policy: Underfunding of space science is at odds with leading knowledge based society

By SpaceRef Editor
June 18, 2003
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Some of the questions asked in the Green Paper are not relevant to space research, while other, important issues are not addressed at all. While the ESSC-ESF acknowledges with interest the existence of such a document and its potential value, it regrets that none of the twelve questions posed in the document specifically address or recognise the role of fundamental research (science) in underpinning any policy for space.

Due to this absence, the ESSC-ESF believes that the forthcoming White Paper should stress clearly, and in a prominent fashion, that the involvement in first-class science is absolutely essential for the promotion of European interests and leadership, as it imparts a strong strategic drive to its technological and industrial system, as successfully demonstrated in the case of the USA.

The ESSC-ESF strongly stresses the fact that the funds for European space research have been repeatedly cut in the past years, and have become notoriously insufficient to maintain a strong foundation for space activities. This trend must be stopped immediately, and reversed in a significant manner. Overall the ESSC-ESF believes that there has to be a synergistic approach taken by the European Commission, ESA, and other involved European institutions, to ensure that coordination and existing interfaces are improved, rather than one in which they would seek to completely redefine institutional responsibilities.

Progress requires a sequence of research investments aimed at acquiring knowledge, maturing technology and developing applications. The time required for the development of this sequence however can be very long, particularly in the space sector, and this delay hides the links between research and progress. In addition, applications do not usually stem straightforwardly from well-identified research perspectives; rather they are often the result of an essentially unpredictable process. An important requisite for the construction of an efficient European space strategy is thus to create the conditions for the development of a balanced and long term planning of the activities.

The success of ESA?s science programme is its dependence on scientific excellence as a criterion for its projects, regardless of the diversity of alleged priorities, as well as the merits of its current mandatory, GNP-related, funding scheme. If the science programmes are to be perceived as being internationally competitive, scientific excellence must remain the criterion. Finally, the White Paper should state that, in the space area, this involvement in first-class science encompasses research in space, research of space, and research from space. In order to ensure the long-term planning and stability advocated in the Green Paper, these other scientific programmes of ESA should also acquire a mandatory status.

Notes for editor

The process of consultation on the “Green Paper” started in March 2003, and the resulting “White Paper” should be published by the European Commission at the end of 2003. The European Space Science Committee (ESSC), expert committee of the European Science Foundation (ESF), was invited to submit an appropriate response and recommendations concerning this document. The ESSC-ESF is the main European-wide body, representing the scientific community, and advising the European Space Agency, the European Commission and national space agencies in Europe on issues concerning space research and related activities. It is a place for reflections and proposals made independently from agencies and governments.

General considerations on the Green Paper and the future European space policy, stressing elements that the ESSC-ESF would like to see incorporated in the final White Paper, will be published by ESF in the coming weeks as an ESF Policy Briefing. This document contains specific replies to the twelve questions posed in the Green Paper, along with the ESSC-ESF?s corresponding recommendations.
Contact: Dr. Jean-Claude Worms:
or Head of Communications Mr. Jens Degett:


SpaceRef staff editor.