The new colonial movement: The European Space Agency (ESA) yesterday unveiled a new roadmap for its future space effort, aimed primarily in developing an independent space program capable of launching its own astronauts and taking them to both the Moon and Mars.
The program is dubbed Terrae Novae (“New Worlds”) and aims to put European astronauts on other worlds using its own rockets and landers by the 2030s. The graphic to the right, figure 6 from the policy paper, illustrates this long term goal.
From the full document [pdf]:
From the onset, the Terrae Novae strategic roadmap has built-in the notion of more European
autonomy, leadership and identity. Recent geopolitical events are now fully reinforcing the unavoidability of this approach. Not having autonomous capabilities is indeed a hard lesson learned: developing major scientific instrumentation or technological demonstration capabilities without mastering the delivery to their destination bears a high programmatic and financial risk. Such freedom of action is not incompatible with international cooperation. Being a reliable partner having its own dissimilar redundancy in selected activities is a strong asset. Autonomy and leadership are the prerogative of major economic and political powers that influence the international setting. It is up to our decision-makers to choose to be part of this endeavour, and to further project Europe’s soft power into the Solar System for the benefit of this and the next generations. [emphasis mine]
Very clearly, the highlighted sentence refers to the end of ESA’s partnership with Russia that caused a multi-year delay in the launch of its ExoMars rover mission. Europe relied on Russia to launch and land the Franklin rover on Mars, and when the partnership broke up the rover was stranded.
The strategy also makes this important declaration:
The US approach to post-ISS LEO activities is firmly commercial based. Europe will have to adapt to this situation by defining an anchor customer approach whereby opportunities will be given to European industry to provide a service-based offer, ESA being a customer and not an owner of infrastructure. The offer will have to include access to in-orbit infrastructure a well as upload and download capabilities.
In other words, ESA is going to try to emulate NASA’s effort, as recommended in my 2017 policy paper Capitalism in Space, to no longer build anything, but instead have private enterprise supply its needs, with that private sector owning what it builds. Though the ESA appears a little reluctant to do so, American policy is forcing its hand.
Thus, the strategy calls for Europe’s private sector to develop its own commercial space stations under a framework the strategy calls SciHab. Whether it will be a single low Earth orbit station whose construction is coordinated by ESA or competing independent stations is not yet determined.
In the end, the fundamental goal of this Terrae Novae program is to have Europe capable of independently exploring the solar system by the 2030s, no longer reliant on any other big space power like the U.S. or Russia.
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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
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