|"Per aspera ad astra" - "Přes překážky ke hvězdám"|
|Funding the final frontier|
Funding the final frontierzdroj: RESEARCH REVIEW
Former cosmonaut Vladmír Remek argues that the EU needs to keep its own access to space if it wants to benefit from research
Space research affects the lives and activities of a vast majority of people, but we are still unsure about how to tackle many of the issues related to space research. For example, should we keep supporting space research in Europe and maintain our own European space policy? In the early years, space research was motivated not simply by the struggle for progress but also by military interests. Europe has joined the space race, and despite very limited financial resources, has managed to keep up with the great space powers.
The European space agency (ESA) has participated in a wide number of projects, such as the Hubble space telescope, Odysseus, the infrared space observatory, the Soho and Cluster projects, the GMES satellite monitoring system, etc, but we have also been driving our own space projects, and maintained our own independent access to space. In my opinion, that has to be the highest priority for the EU – and it has been achieved.
Galileo is perhaps the highest profile EU space project. Two rival systems, GMS and Glonass, were already in place before the launch of Galileo, but both were essentially military projects. Galileo is a new concept, one that could leave all the competition in its wake. I know from my time as a cosmonaut that successful space research is, at its heart, a matter of international cooperation. Once bitter rivals, the US and Russia have begun cooperating on space issues, and Galileo offers an alternative for non-EU members to also get involved in space projects – and it is already attracting high levels of interest.
With the enlargement of the EU, the need to ensure the effective management of EU research programmes has become increasingly evident, and involving as many member states as possible is a clear part of this. My country, the Czech Republic, has played a role from the outset, and Czech involvement in space research continues to this day, through projects such as the Mimosa satellite, the hard Xray spectrometer and Cluster II. This is one of the reasons why we have fought hard for the operations centre for Galileo to be based in Prague. Space research and its practical applications present a great opportunity for smaller member states to prove their own ability in research. It also offers the chance for the larger member states to show that they are serious with regard to equality within the EU.
“Space research and its practical applications present a great opportunity for smaller member states to prove their own ability in research”
Space is of strategic significance for Europe, and both the EU and member states should have proactive space policies. The ESA was created after a UN decision guaranteeing free access to space for research and its use by any state on an equal basis, and as such the recent rumours that the US wants to have the right to decide who should have access to space are disconcerting. Europe needs to go its own way. As the 50th anniversary of the first satellite launch approaches, we should think what we could have achieved in such a short space of time if it had been a European project – and how we might be able to prosper from space research in the future.