The future of the European space program can be decided in Lisbon

The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to hold talks with EU member states in Portugal on guidelines for further developing the space program, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher announced on Wednesday.

ESA will hold an inter-ministerial meeting which, Josef Aschbacher said today, “will probably take place in Portugal, at the end of this year, in Lisbon or some other city, in preparation for the space summit”, planned for 2022.

The ESA Director-General stated – during a virtual press conference in Paris, where he presented the outlines of the Space Agency’s 2025 Agenda – that “Europe must have a serious debate on where it wants to be in the next 15 years in terms of economy, value and impact in space” and suggested that this debate be held “at a high level, ideally with the Heads of State, in order to discuss Europe’s ambitions and priorities in space”.

The intention is that this “preparatory dialogue” will lead to “recommendations for new activities, new flagship projects, but also to new directions for Europe in space”, “starting points” in the process with the aim of defining these ambitions in 2022. summit.

“I believe Europe needs to think seriously about where it wants to be in space for the next 10 or 15 years,” he said.

“It is necessary to decide which investments to make or if Europe wants to focus on research with greater visibility, such as the Moon or Mars,” given that the funds invested by countries like the United States or China are much larger.

In the case of the United States, investment in space programs is five times higher than in Europe, Aschbacher pointed out.

It is important for the agency to focus on aspects such as partnership and cooperation with institutions; negotiating with the Financial Partnership Framework Agreement (FFPA), the entity with which to decide on community funding; and accelerate the increase in investment, namely private investment, in Europe for space projects.

Aschbacher said that “the agency has an excellent relationship with NASA, one of trust and benefits for both.”

Asked about the possibility of ESA becoming the European Union’s space agency, Josef Aschbacher stressed that he wanted closer relations, but noted that “ESA member states are not the same EU member states”.

“We can implement EU programs, but that does not mean that ESA is an EU agency, but an agency for the implementation of the EU space program. “We would like to work closely together to implement the EU’s space programs as an independent entity,” he said.

The European Space Agency’s 2025 agenda aims to set priorities and strategic goals for ESA, such as strengthening relations with the European Union, fostering green and digital commercialization, developing a space for safety and security, addressing critical program challenges and implementing the agency’s transformation.