Space for Europe

The International Space Station following the STS-116 mission

Exploring the Universe, and sending satellites and humans into space are among the major challenges for developed nations in the 21st century.

This is why 20 European countries have been pooling resources for over 40 years, putting Europe at the forefront of space science, technology and applications.

Today, Europe’s citizens enjoy the benefits, from jobs and economic growth, to public services, efficient communications and security.

Richer European identity

ESA in concert with the European Union, national bodies responsible for space and international partners, manages the research and development programmes needed to maintain the position as second to none in space for the future.

The results are world-class industry, outstanding scientific discoveries and a stronger, richer European identity.

Space programmes are long-term activities

A decade passes easily between the decision to develop a world-class scientific satellite and the moment that it returns long-awaited data from space to universities and research centres.

The time is not much shorter for new-generation space solutions targeted at the global market. This is why space policies based on a long-term vision are the foundation of ESA’s space programmes for science, Earth observation, telecommunications, navigation, human spaceflight and exploration, and launchers.

The main elements of ESA’s vision have remained relevant and solid since its creation, more than 30 years ago. These are a competitive space industry across Europe, researchers leading the way in scientific discovery, high-quality satellite-based services for European citizens and governments, and a strong share in the global space market.

Solid vision, changing world

What have changed are the policies. ESA manages long-term programmes in a rapidly changing world. This is a real challenge for the organisation, but ESA has responded by setting itself a clear objective, put forward in Agenda 2011 by the Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain.

Europe must continue to have a prominent role in space at a time when other world powers are rapidly developing their space capabilities.

This implies that ESA must consolidate its position as a global space agency. This is instrumental for serving its Member States and the European Union in developing a competitive economy, and indispensable in contributing to global policies and increasing knowledge.

European dimension

This vision now adds the European Union dimension to Europe’s space policy, developed and implemented for 30 years by ESA, and in return adds a space dimension to the political actions of the European Union.

ESA’s founders provided the Agency with a flexibility that has been a great source of strength in the past as well as being responsible for much of its success.

This has enabled ESA to move into new fields of activity during those 30 years and also to double the number of its Member States. In the near future, ESA will transform from a space agency of 19 countries into the space agency for the European Union.

Last update: 12 February 2013

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