Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Europe in Space too?

Yesterday August the 6th, NASA was celebrating its first ever rover landing to Mars. The "Curiosity" rover made a perfect landing, after a nearly 9-month voyage from Earth.  That is the first major development in space for NASA and humanity, after so many years of efforts.

So while they are celebrating in America, what happens in Europe at the same time? We are dealing with the crisis while bickering between us, with inability to reach an agreement and the return to protectionism and nationalism as our only future. What will Europe have to celebrate in the decades to come? Will we always be admiring the achievements of others and follow the lead of USA, or will we start making our first steps towards achieving something as a continent again?

Russia in the past and recently China and India have also had their moments in space. As has Europe! Europe has E.S.A. the European Space Agency, similar to NASA. Many E.U. and non E.U. members are also members of ESA, but though ESA has close ties with the EU, it is an independent intergovernmental organization. It is comprised by 19 members (soon to be 20 with the accession of Poland) plus many more associates from all over Europe and Canada.

With administrative bases in most western European countries and its spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, ESA has been launching a series of rockets to space. The Ariane, Soyuz and Vega rockets have been launched over the years, sometimes with the cooperation of third countries like Russia, the US and Japan.

So what next for Europe and its Space exploration, could we one day have the jubilant news and reactions like those of NASA? Well for the moment there is no need in even dreaming something like that. What good would it be to send people or machinery into Space while Europeans are facing tough austerity and unemployment and when they can not make ends meet, while the future of Europe's currency is in doubt?

We do not want to become like India, a country with millions under the poverty line yet spending billions in their space and nuclear ambitions. That is plain unethical. But once we sort out what is really wrong in Europe and the EU now days, the democratic deficit, the cracks in our currency, the inequality and everything else, I believe that Europe could use Space exploration for its benefit in many more ways than just rocket launching.

Space exploration should be an option for the future. It worked well for America in the past. It united the nation and gave its population something to be proud of and stand united. It also gave the US huge prestige and a head-start for any further Space explorations. Perhaps we could use the same for Europe in the future. If else we need to give something to our citizens to be proud of, to have hope and faith in the European project and perhaps renew their interest for it. If Europe manages to create something of some greatness in a collective way and with the participation of many of its states, then perhaps it will help in creating a more collective consciousness among the European populace.

Individually the European countries are too small to achieve anything like what the US, Russia, China and India have achieved so far in that field. But cooperating together, with careful planning and appropriate budgeting Europe can achieve a whole lot more. After the storm of this crisis, we should rethink the EU budget, reform and re-prioritize. Perhaps we should reduce the funds for CAP (the Common Agriculture Policy) , from our military budgets (if we ever manage to have a common military policy) and other outdated policies and invest more in research and innovation; including the field of Space exploration.

It could create new industries and with them, new jobs. We could promote new subjects in our Universities for our youth to study and specialize on. With closer cooperation and coordination we could maximize the results. We could create factories in all participating states to build the components needed for this venture. Set up research centers for our newly specialized scientists to work on. Space exploration should not just be about wasting money for a dream, or a prestige contest in the World stage of politics.

Why Europe should always watch others achieving and always lack behind them? We have opened the ways for sea explorations in the past, we were the pioneers who changed this world for good and for bad. We were leading in all major developments of the human kind once. Will we just be observers from now on? 

(You can find out more about ESA in its website:  http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Space_Year_2007/index.html )

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