Europe: Leading innovation to define exploration
An insight from Simonetta Di Pippo
Europe is a proud continent, a diverse continent, a melting pot of cultures and ideas with a legacy as explorers. Our ability to come together and cooperate, as a united continent and with other space-fairing nations on major human spaceflight programmes is a great example of how far we have come socially, politically and economically in the last few decades. We are a reflection of our society's desire to achieve greatness, to push the boundaries scientifically, technologically and industrially for the greater good of humankind.
Technology and research are shaping our world and will play an increasingly important role in shaping our future. Only those countries with the vision to stay at the forefront of these technological advancements will reap the benefits of their engagement.
The technology we develop now will form the basis of our future achievements. Only by staying one step ahead will we have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of our technological advancements in the future. Falling one step behind could create a widening technological gap and lead to a need for even greater investment in the future just in order to have parity with other technologically advanced nations.
Europe's involvement through ESA in the International Space Station partnership has been and continues to be a story of major technological and scientific achievement. It has been a great stimulus for European industry, which has taken great strides in the development and manufacture of cutting-edge space systems and hardware, which have performed flawlessly on orbit.
The launch and attachment of the Columbus laboratory in February and Node 2 last year have shown the capabilities Europe has in developing human-rated orbital infrastructure and undertaking major scientific programmes in weightlessness, which will hold major benefits for humans in space and on earth. This was strengthened by the successful five-month mission this year of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Europe's first ever logistics spacecraft and unique even globally.
It is proposed therefore to build on the recent success of Columbus' attachment to ISS and its start of operations and the flawless mission of the Automated Transfer Vehicle 'Jules Verne' to engage Europe in the development of a new space transportation system.
This will safeguard our industrial investment, enhance our position among international partners and prepare Europe to play the role it deserves in future undertakings. Additionally we have to continue developing the technologies and enabling capabilities which will allow us to claim a seat among those returning to the Moon in the next decade.
In parallel we will provide all our support, knowledge and expertise in raising the political profile of human spaceflight and exploration in connection with the European Union and all other stakeholders.
Today's strategic decisions will define Europe's position tomorrow and will allow us to see one or more European citizens on the Moon together with our International partners. The technical knowledge and experience of the European Space Agency coupled with the political weight of the European Union can make this process even more robust.
Let's shape our future together.