The European Union is a global actor with worldwide responsibilities. It has valuable space infrastructures, in particular navigation and Earth observation satellites. Through the flagship programmes GMES (global monitoring for environment and security) and Galileo – Europe’s initiative for a state of the art global satellite navigation system – these infrastructures contribute to citizens’ security and well being. When Haiti was hit by an earthquake, when forest fires spread in the Mediterranean, and when flooding devastated parts of central Europe, Europe’s GMES system assisted relief efforts on the ground. Soon, Galileo services will open new market opportunities for Europe’s industry.
Space is a driver for innovation and competitiveness at the service of citizens. Research in this domain generates knowledge within some of Europe’s most high-tech, high-risk, and investment intensive enterprises, making space research a critical element of Europe’s innovation union. Reflecting the multifaceted possibilities and challenges in the space domain, in its new communication on an integrated industrial policy for the globalisation age, the European commission set out three main imperatives for future space policy, focusing on societal benefits for citizens, economic innovation drivers for enterprises, and strategic assets for Europe as a global actor.
EU space research priorities reflect these policy concerns. At the benefit of society, in the context of GMES, it is important to complete the Earth observation infrastructures that are designed for land, ocean, atmosphere and air quality monitoring, as well as emergency response and security. Jointly, such efforts also empower Europe to deliver on a GMES climate change service.
Moreover, in the harsh space environment, these space infrastructures are vulnerable. They must be protected against risks such as those posed by debris or solar radiation. Indeed, in order to benefit from security from space, Europe needs to address the challenges of security in space. Research into domains such as space weather and space situational awareness is critical in this respect, and the innovation potential for Europe’s industry is promising.
With the Lisbon treaty, the EU now shares competences with the member states on space policy. Working together with the European space agency (ESA), our aim is to promote scientific and technical progress, and industrial competitiveness. Space is full of endless possibilities and the quest for discovery, exploration and innovation is at the heart of Europe, its history and its peoples. We would not be Europeans without such a sense of curiosity. As the EU takes on global responsibilities, space is both a means in support of policies and initiatives that benefit people on Earth, and an end in its own right.
In Europe, ultimately we pursue space research because we seek answers to fundamental questions about our planet. And in doing so, we apply the technologies we obtain to develop new space infrastructures that help save lives on Earth, empowering the EU to harvest the potential of space for a safer world.