The joint European Union/European Space Agency space programme will not be agreed until 2007 – more than a year later than planned.
The joint programme was supposed to have been agreed at the third of three EU/ESA space councils held in late 2005. However, the third council in November agreed only an endorsement of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme. GMES is to be a network of existing Earth observation satellites and ground stations linked more effectively to governmental organisations.
“As long as the EU does not have a budget, I’m not in a hurry to draw up a plan. We have to see the consequences of the EU budget for space activities,” said ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain at ESA’s Paris headquarters on 16 January.
The EU’s European Council agreed its budget for 2007-13
six months late on 15-16 December 2005. However, that budget still has to be approved by the European Parliament.
The original EU white paper on a European Space Policy, published in 2003, included exploration, but European Commission sources expect the joint programme to only include GMES and the Galileo satellite navigation system.
In Paris last week Dordain said that ESA would be meeting NASA this week to discuss co-operation on lunar exploration and that an oversubscription for the agency’s ExoMars Martian rover project would mean the excess funds being transferred to a proposed sample return mission.
After 2005 and its successes with the Huygens probe’s landing on Titan and heavylift Ariane 5 ECA’s return to flight, ESA expects 2006 will see several milestones.
These include the end of the SMART-1 lunar orbiter mission; the transportation of its International Space Station (ISS) laboratory module Columbus and Italian-built ISS Node 3 to the Kennedy Space Center; the Venus Express spacecraft’s arrival at Venus; two ESA astronauts launched on Space Shuttle missions in May and October; and the launch of the Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element-B satellite.
ROB COPPINGER / PARIS