The first Portuguese Space Day was held in Lisbon on Friday 16 May, jointly organised by ESA and GRICES, the Office for International Relations in Science and Higher Education of the Portuguese Ministry of Science. The Museum of Science "Pavilhão do Conhecimento" (Pavilion of Knowledge), built for EXPO 98, hosted the event.
Over 200 visitors attended the full-day event, including representatives from industry, academia, and from the press. Since Portugal became a full member of ESA at the end of 2000, there has been an increasing interest in ESA activities and more than 20 Portuguese enterprises and Institutes already have contracts with ESA.
The purpose of the Space Day was to present Portugal's participation in ESA to decision makers, industry, the scientific community, the general public and the press. What are the advantages and the opportunities for Portuguese participation? Two key initiatives are the ESA Portugal Task Force and the Portuguese trainee scheme. Presentations on relevant ESA programmes, such as Earth Observation, Galileo and Aurora, also attracted much interest.
The Portuguese Minister of Science and Higher Education, Mr Pedro Lynce, opened the day, emphasising the importance of Portuguese participation in ESA to increase the competitiveness of the private sector in research and development effort. "The internationalization of the Portuguese scientific system constitutes one of the unquestioned priorities", stressed Minister Lynce. Mrs Maria da Graça Carvalho, GRICES's Director General, presented in detail the strategy behind the cooperative programme with ESA.
In the main hall of the museum a number of Portuguese companies presented the projects that they are developing in collaboration with ESA. In the 'cyber coffee corner' young people had the chance to explore the missions of ESA online. Museum visitors were especially interested in an Envisat image of Portugal taken in March this year.
Following the success of the Space Day, an Information Day On Earth Observation, jointly organized by ESA and GRICES, will be held on 22 May. The objective of this is to inform Portuguese Industry and research institutes about the current and planned Earth Observation programmes and the opportunities that these will open for them in the short and medium term. The Information Day is targeted towards those SMEs and institutes that are new to ESA, and is just the first of a series of such events planned to encourage the growth of the space sector in ESA’s newest Member State.