On 3 February, the Chair of the European Polar Board (EPB), Maaike Vancauwenberghe, and the ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at ESA's headquarters in Paris.
The MoU provides a framework for a wider cooperation between ESA and the EPB, and defines the use of European Antarctic stations for scientific and technological purposes. As such, an umbrella is formed under which the exchange of information on relevant technologies or procedures between ESA and EPB Members is facilitated. Joint activities envisioned under this MoU will be implemented in separate agreements directly with EPB member organisations, outlining the specific activities agreed upon and detailing the responsibilities of each party.
The MoU defines the collaboration and implementation of technologies or procedures at European Antarctic stations, based on the complementarities among the terrestrial, marine and space platforms for the study of Antarctica. At the same time, harmonisation of research activities in the Antarctic in a number of fields is defined in the MoU.
This will expand the cooperation that started in 2002 between ESA, the Italian space agency ASI, the French space agency CNES, the French polar research and technology institute (IFRTP) and the Italian agency for new technology, energy and environment ENEA, regarding the use of the Concordia Antarctic station for planetary missions simulations.
A Steering Committee will be established and will meet periodically over the lifetime of the cooperation. Each signatory will bear the costs of discharging its responsibilities under this MoU. The technical data exchanged under the MoU shall be used only for the purposes of conducting the cooperation.
The EPB is an independent European organisation of directors and managers of the major European national polar programmes, which coordinates major strategic priorities in the Arctic and Antarctic with respect to European Arctic and Antarctic research and optimised use of European research infrastructures.
Through its 26 members from national operators and research institutes in 18 countries and over 40 polar stations in the Arctic and Antarctic, the EPB fosters multilateral collaborations between European national funding agencies, national polar institutes and research organisations, and represents polar issues within European research framework programmes. The EPB also liaises with polar programmes outside Europe and with international polar scientific organisations and agencies.