Twenty-nine European countries unveiled a new space policy on 22 May 2007, unifying the approach of ESA with those of the individual European Union member states.
The European Space Policy has for the first time created a common political framework for space activities in Europe. Jointly drafted by the European Commission and ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Policy sets out a basic vision and strategy for the space sector, and tackles issues such as security and defence, access to space and exploration.
Through this document, the EU, ESA and its Member States all commit to increasing coordination of their activities and programmes and to organising their respective roles relating to space.
ESA’s contribution to space science has been outstanding. Without question, its efficiency and efficacy are on a par with national space science programmes in Europe and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the present level of funding, close to 400 million Euro per year through mandatory contributions by Member States, is now some 20% below the average level at the inception of Space Science in the ESRO days (1964–75), and also some 20% lower than the level of the mid-1990s.
The ‘low-hanging’ fruit in space science has now largely been harvested and the Science Programme enters the implementation of the Cosmic Vision Plan. It has, thus, been considered necessary to re-assess the planning and decision-making processes, as well as the management and governance of the Science Programme. Accordingly, based on a decision by Council in February 2006, the 2006 Science Programme Review Team (SPRT) was set up and mandated to carry out the review.
ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, ensures the development of the ground-segment facilities and services, and the smooth working of spacecraft in orbit.
Its control rooms, linked to ground stations all over the world, track and control satellites, issuing commands for spacecraft manoeuvring, carrying out routine systems monitoring and transmitting new payload operational instructions. It is the home of ESA’s Directorate of Operations and Infrastructure.
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