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N° 49–2016: Citizens’ space debate: the main findings and the future

25 November 2016

On 10 September,about 2000 Europeans helped to shape the future of space by taking part in a world first: the Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe. 

ESA organised the event to gather opinions and ideas to help develop and nurture the future strategy for space in Europe.

When Jan Woerner was elected as Director General of ESA by its Member States he expressed the wish to boost dialogue with all stakeholders and to open up space to a broader public. This Citizens’ Debate translated his intention into practice, by including people from all walks of life around Europe.

About 2000 people representing a broad diversity of citizens in 22 countries debated space issues during the day-long event.

This consultation exercise, on an unprecedented scale, was organised in all ESA Member States simultaneously, following the same approach.

In order to consolidate the 22 national results into one report at European level, the debates followed the same pattern and addressed the same questions. Although quantitative results were available soon after the debate, it required more time to analyse the qualitative results – in particular the creative session where participants were asked to imagine a space project for 2046 and 200 scenarios were proposed.

An entire day on space issues

Five sessions on “Space and me”, “Europe’s role in space exploration and exploitation”, “The global governance of space”, “Let’s go into space” and “Preparing the future of space for Europe” were each opened with a video before the debates. Participants then answered a set of standardised questions on each theme.

At the end, feedback from participants revealed a 92% rate of satisfaction with the exercise, and 95% considered that ESA should organise similar events in the future.


Notable results


Thinking outside the box


Divided opinions

69% consider ESA should develop specific programmes to improve security, while 16% consider it should not develop programmes in the security sector;


According to the Space 4.0[1] strategy of ESA Director General Jan Woerner, it is crucial for the Agency to involve more actors, especially citizens and in particular member state taxpayers and end-users, in considering responses to societal challenges. Space is put at their service and can positively affect current and future generations through innovation, exploration and international cooperation.


The Citizens’ Debate results are available online in the 17 languages of the debate at:

A summary of the main recommendations from participants:


What now?

The Director General will use the strong messages of the debate participants in shaping the Agency’s future space activities and also to continue the dialogue with stakeholders. He stresses that the opinions expressed by participants will be taken into account in his discussions at ESA’s Ministerial Council in Lucerne, on 1–2 December.


Replica Debates

To continue the dialogue, ESA encourages its member state citizens to organise ‘replica debates’. These may take place in schools, classes, clubs, associations and other similar places.

The required materials can be downloaded at Videos, presentations and the Citizens’ Debate magazine are available in 17 languages and can be used to organise citizens’ own debates, or simply as information material.


For further information, please contact:

Nathalie Meusy

ESA Citizens’ Debate project manager



[1] 20 July 2016,


About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Learn more about ESA at


For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Office

Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99



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