Budget delay hits European space

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,?Æ 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


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