IT IS TIME TO ACT IN SPACE EXPLORATION: A letter of European space industry to decision makers

Europe has often fallen behind in key sectors because of a lack of daring decision at key moments. We are at such a historical moment for human and robotic exploration. Stepping up the ladder or falling off is at stake. The concerned European industry is asking political decision-makers to be bold at the next ESA Council at ministerial level.

Dear Madams and Sirs,

At the beginning of this decade, the US and China embrace exploration boldly for a sustained robotic and human presence in the Solar system. The early space race was a sprint, especially for the first Moon walk, but the new race will be long lasting and into deeper space, especially for Mars. Besides medium players such as Russia and India, non-traditional space-faring countries like UAE or Saudi Arabia are now also engaging in space exploration programmes. Under such geostrategic circumstances a European standstill is not an option.

We are at the dawn of a low Earth orbit economy, expanding to the Moon and later to Mars. Europe must shape its own future and not just passively witness others exploring beyond Earth, establishing their economic influence, and reaping the benefits. The European space industry strongly holds that Europe cannot afford to be sidelined, considering its GDP and international ambition. Skilled jobs creation and technological innovation with spillovers well beyond space technology are at stake.

But there is much more. With an accelerated pace of space activities around the globe, we want to alert politicians that it is their decision now for Europe to have its own sovereign capabilities or to be a follower forever and miss out market shares and future prosperity.

The European industry can undoubtedly deliver. Europe’s strength is unique multilateralism, creativity and diversity, federation of resources and know-how for common goals. The thrill of the first ever asteroid landing (Rosetta mission) and recently Ariane 5’s perfect launch of the James Webb Space Telescope are outstanding proofs of competence. The same has to hold true for exploration.

Cooperation on the International Space Station, on Orion and soon the lunar Gateway and Mars sample return, all led by the US with significant European contribution, has already strengthened European industry resulting in some instances in worldwide market advantage like the on-going B2B initiatives well established with US and other industries.

In this new era of expansion, we as space industry, have to strive for more autonomy in a level playing field. We are ready to move on to the next step and embrace new innovative business models, such as service-based commercial initiatives. Like in the US, governmental support and commitment as anchor customer is vital, as well as setting clear rules for co-funding and derisking technology maturation. We also foresee that numerous non-space industrial sectors such as energy, automotive, health, food, etc. will be profiting from opportunities created by a large variety of exploration challenges in order to tackle immediate grand challenges including energy and climate, circular economy and sustainability.

This open letter is therefore a plea for decision-makers to step up at the occasion of the ESA Council at ministerial level in November this year. Courageous and bold decisions are needed to unlock the potential of industrial growth by supporting fully the Terrae Novae programme proposal and its 2030+ strategy roadmap. Failing to open the door for the next decades will see Europe’s heritage of explorers vanish, and so will the pride of the young Europeans bound to watch others making history, leaving the dream to the ones who dare, taking away the emotions of being part of this endeavour and putting their inspiration in a straitjacket.

Space exploration is not a nice to have, it is also more than pride and soft power, it is a civilisation necessity.


For Adriatic Aerospace Association

Slobodan Danko Bosanac, president

Signatories of the letter: