Europe has ambitious plans to explore the universe

A undated file simulated image shows a Galileo type satellite circling earth. [EPA/ESA / HANDOUT]

Last spring marked 40 years since Czechoslovakian astronaut Vladimir Remek’s flight to space and this year marks another anniversary. In November, the Czech Republic celebrated ten years since joining the European Space Agency (ESA). EURACTIV Czech Republic’s media partner Aktuálně.cz reports.

There is little chance of sending another astronaut into the cosmos any time soon but the Czech Republic cooperates strongly within the ESA along with four dozen local companies.

The Czech Republic contributes 830 million crowns (€3.2.2 million) to the ESA budget, which is enough to participate, for example, in micro navigation experiments but not enough for the training of astronauts.

However, Prague is the site of the Galileo Management Centre and the European Global Navigation Satellite System which should achieve full operational capabilities in the next year.

The establishment of this system is not the only project in the pipeline with Europe harbouring ambitious space plans for the future.

The Galileo Program is similar to the US GPS and will use up to three dozen satellites. In addition to the European Global Navigation System (EGNOS) and the Copernicus Environmental and Security Monitoring Program, it is also the most prominent feature of the European Union’s space activities.

Moreover, the EU plans to further develop its space program with research results and their subsequent benefits transcending space exploration and aiding terrestrial activities.

The Triphood mobile application for family trips and special bicycle frames from Festka are examples of some of the benefits and by-products facilitated by ESA research. With this in mind, the European Parliament fully supports the new European Commission plans to focus on space research and investigation.

“The space program must also include the ability to confront cyber threats and create a competitive environment, including the promotion of space diplomacy,” Jaromír Kohlíček, Czech deputy chairman of the EP Committee of Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) said.

“The universe is a common heritage of humankind, and cooperation, reciprocity and fair competition conditions must be applied on the international level,” the Czech MEP added. “There are also opportunities to create skilled jobs here.”

Budget should be increased

In June this year, the European Commission presented a new space program that unites all EU activities in this area. Parliament’s committee voted on it on 21st November.

“The Galileo and Copernicus programs are essential for Europe to be a leader in space technology and hence for European security, development and competitiveness,” Kohlíček’s colleague Miroslav Poche, who is also a member of the committee, told Czech online daily Aktuálně.cz.

The Commission proposes to increase the space program budget for the period 2021 to 2027 to 16 billion euro. According to Poche, all major political groups adopted this plan. “Although we may have wished for a little more,” the MEP added.

Of this amount, nearly ten billion euros will be spent on Galileo and the EGNOS system and less than six billion for Copernicus.

“I believe that the ITRE Committee is ready to support an increase in the budget to €16.9 billion,” Poche added.

“I personally hope that we will be able to capitalise on the potential of the Galileo headquarters in Prague, with our domestic homework task being to solve the level of salary in cooperation with the agency’s director and Commission staff,” Kohlíček says.

“The great tradition of the Czech space programme, as well as the relatively high concentration of technical schools and research capacities in Prague, create good conditions for this.”

Space and Earth Monitoring

The European Commission’s proposal envisages maintaining the existing EU space activities and extending them further. There are a number of reasons for this proposal but chief among them is the truth that space research will find use in a number of other disciplines. The Czech Republic has great potential in this respect thanks to its automotive and aviation industry.

TOSEDA, a company from the town of Pardubice in Eastern Bohemia, is a prime example. They are engaged in the research of nanotechnologies for devices that produce special durable materials. They must survive in extreme environments – just as they would in space. They are used in the production of satellite mirrors or liquid fuel tanks.

Last year, the EU employed 230,000 people as part of its space programme.

However, Galileo and Copernicus are not the only European space programs. Another part of it is the development of security components for the so-called Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system which monitors the possible collision with asteroids or artificial Earth satellites.

The Govsatcom program allows EU member states to respond quickly to security threats or to natural disasters in order for them to provide rapid assistance to affected areas.

“ESA programmes will continue in sending satellites to Earth orbit, both for the EU and for other subscribers, taking into account the EU’s security interests,” Kohlíček says. “On the global market, infrastructure will be further developed on the ground, at the sites of existing facilities and development centres.”

According to him, the space agency is trying to behave responsibly in space and is looking at many appropriate and ethical ventures, including the development of solutions to prevent the spread of space waste.

Robotic snake on Mars

In the future, the European Union has even more ambitious plans to follow up on earlier programs.

In 2004, she sent a Rosetta probe from the space centre in French Guyana, the same one that launched the Philae landing module to the 67P / Čurjumov-Gerasimenko comet 10 years later. This October, the Union, together with Japan, sent the MPO and MMO to Mercury.

Another spacecraft is scheduled to visit Mars in 2020 to explore the planet.

Researchers from the SINTEF Institute at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim are developing special mini robots for missions on Mars, which consist of several small parts and imitate snake movement. They will then explore the red planet’s terrain in places where a wheeled rover could not manoeuver.

“There is a clear majority in the European Parliament asking for a strong space programme and, above all, to strengthen the performance of existing programmes,” Poche says.

“In particular, it is important to promote the importance of their continued use because the results of the program can be used by industry and services, including public administration who wish to access the necessary data for the sake of security.”

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