Rumours over a proposed European rival to the
While the European Space Agency (ESA) has traditionally maintained an almost entirely scientific approach to space exploration, the French president – Nicholas Sarkozy – is calling for a more politically motivated space policy, that will send Europeans to the moon and beyond and enable us to remain one step ahead of the burgeoning space programmes in
The Engineer would be the last to argue against increased European funding for space science. Here in the
However, we would also suggest that attempting to emulate NASA might not be the most sensible move. For a start NASA spends eight times more on space development than ESA, so Europe would need to allocate huge additional resources to get up to this level. The fact that ESA is run by 17 EU member-states could also end up hampering its ability to display the political agility necessary to compete with the NASA’s of this world. And there is also the possibility that, given the recent history of frosty Franco-American relations, aping the
Increased investment in space is very welcome. But rather than becoming a smaller, less effective version of NASA, ESA should continue to play to its strengths – for instance its expertise in cost effective science, and earth observation – as well as look at the many areas of space technology where NASA isn’t particularly active.
Finally, while Sarkozy is right to point to the many great advances in space technology that have been politically motivated, there is a flip side. While Sputnik, the lunar landings, and the many technological leaps achieved during the cold war were politically driven so was Margaret Thatcher’s decision to pull
Jon Excell, features editor