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Europe forges long-term strategy for Space Exploration

Representatives from the UK and other European political, industrial and scientific sectors, together with members of the general public are helping to shape the future direction of space exploration.

At the first in a series of stakeholder consultation workshops held in Edinburgh on the 8/9th January 2007, hosted by the European Space Agency [ESA] and the British National Space Centre [BNSC], the future strategy for ESA's long-term exploration of the solar system and beyond was debated by the various stakeholder groups from Europe in consultation with colleagues from across the world.

The Edinburgh workshop comes at a timely moment, when the ambitions of other space nations are becoming apparent, for Europe to shape and focus its own Space Exploration plans and how these might integrate with global space endeavours. The conclusions from this and future pan-European stakeholder consultation meetings will set the scene for key decisions to be taken at the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level scheduled for 2008.

Commenting on the workshop Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Science and Innovation said," ESA are to be congratulated on taking such an imaginative and transparent approach to defining Europe's future space programme and, importantly, how we in Europe might collaborate with other nations to develop a truly global space exploration strategy.

The UK has a vibrant space science and industrial community that already makes a significant contribution to our knowledge economy. Its experience in developing innovative space technology will continue to ensure the UK plays a leading role in both European and global space exploration in the future".

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC] and Chair of the BNSC Space Board said," In recognition of the developing worldwide interest in space exploration focused on the Moon and Mars, PPARC are setting up an ad-hoc UK Exploration Strategy Working Group that will review global and European plans and establish UK interests and opportunities. A Report, which will also include a review of the case for human space exploration in the global context, will be submitted to the UK Space Board this summer".

The UK is already the second largest European contributor to ESA's Aurora programme of planetary exploration and is currently involved in developing an ambitious Mars Rover project that will fly onboard Europe's ExoMars mission to the Red Planet slated for launch in 2013.

Dr. David Parker, Director of Space Science at the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC] clarified the worldwide view, "Stimulated by NASA, the past year has seen a remarkable effort by fourteen worldwide space agencies to begin to discuss how to work together in this new age of space exploration, to create a so-called Global Exploration Strategy, and the UK is a key player. Dr. Parker added," The UK has already completed a feasibility study of two robotic mission options to the surface of the Moon focused on exploiting the UK's leadership in small satellites and miniaturised science instruments." MoonRaker, a small propulsive Lander to provide in-situ geological dating, and MoonLITE equipped with missile-shaped penetrators carrying seismometers to investigate the lunar interior and a telecommunications capability to demonstrate high data rate telecoms at the Moon. These mission options exemplify the UK's expertise in small satellites, robotics and miniaturised instruments and MoonLITE's telecoms capability could provide a vital contribution to NASA's ambition of establishing a Moon base by 2020".

Gill Ormrod | EurekAlert!
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