Tomorrow is Here

Ten Billion Euros for European Space Agency

by on Dec.04, 2008, under Plans and Policies

Ministers agree to finance most of the European Space Agency wish list.

Ministers responsible for space exploration from the 18 European Space Agency (ESA) countries plus Canada met last week. They agreed to fund 9.9 billion euros (US$12.7 billion) of the requested 10.4 billion euro ($13.34 billion) budget. The ESA Council meets once every three years to decide funding on a list of proposed projects. The meeting took place in The Hague on 25-26 Nov.

Afterwards French education minister Valerie Pecresse said, “Investing money in long-term space projects is an appropriate answer to the economic crisis.” ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said, “These are investments that can help the economy. This is the right time invest in the future.”

Two projects in particular were competing for funds. The ExoMars mission and ESA’s continued commitment to the International Space Station (ISS). ExoMars is championed by Italy and aims to land a rover on Mars and drill beneath the surface to a depth of two meters. Unfortunately ExoMars’s costs had doubled from those originally projected. Germany, a great supporter of the ISS with a heavy industrial commitment to the station, fought hard to protect the 1.4 billion euro ($1.8 billion) ISS budget.

Compromise Reached

After two days of haggling a compromise was reached. ESA contributions to ExoMars are capped at 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion), leaving another 200 million euros ($257 million) to be funded through co-operation with other national agencies. The mission will now blast off in 2016, three years behind schedule. Germany received pledges that the ESA can seek another 400 million euros ($513 million) for the ISS if necessary.

Germany’s junior minister for economics and technology Peter Hintze said, “The ISS is our biggest technological project and tremendous efforts have been made. Now is the time to reap the benefits of our work.” Supporters of the ISS want to get the most out of the station before 2010 when NASA stops flying shuttle missions. An ESA delegate told Reuters, “The real question is the future of the ISS after 2015 when the United States has said it will stop using it.”

New Climate Satellite – Tropomi

The Netherlands is to build a new climate satellite to be launched in 2014. The Tropospheric Ozone- Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi) will measure ozone in the troposphere. This is the lowest part of the Earth’s atmosphere containing 80 percent of our air. The Dutch government will provide 78 million euros ($100 million) for the project. The balance of 37–52 million euros ($47.5–66.7 million) will be provided by the ESA. “The data provided by the Tropomi will enable the Dutch Royal Meteorological Institute to provide accurate data about smog,” Dutch Economics Minister Maria van der Hoeven said.

Tropomi is part of ESA’s Earth monitoring project which has a total funding of 857 million euros ($1.1 billion). ESA’s new budget also includes money for ESA’s contribution to the Hubble Space Telescope, further development a new version of the Ariane launcher and funding of telecommunications projects.

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