Issue #4(30) 2021 Astronautics

A manifesto for Europe in space

Josef Aschbacher European Space Agency, Paris, France

The European Space Agency (ESA) has taken a giant leap in launching the Matosinhos Manifesto that will accelerate the use of space in Europe and tackle the urgent and unprecedented challenges faced by Europe and its citizens. At the end of November 2021 it was unanimously approved by the Council of Ministers, ushering in what it is hoped will be a new era for exploration and discovery. ESA Director General, Josef Aschbacher provides context for this bold initiative which will be confirmed at the European Space Summit and the ESA Council ministerial level meetings in 2022.

In Earth’s more than four billion years of existence, there have been so many monumental events: the first use of fire, the invention of the wheel, the first human to walk on the Moon and the creation of the internet, to name but a few. Meanwhile, the Earth itself has witnessed the formation of life, the destruction of species and, ultimately, the regression of its own health. Today, we are at an historical turning point. As forests burn, cities flood and the world faces unprecedented challenges, this is the moment to contribute bold, shared ambitions and solutions enabled by space.

Ambition is a word I use a lot: ambition is what has driven humans to achieve the momentous, the impossible and the unimaginable. It is what drove Europeans to explore across the Atlantic to discover new lands and later to send the first radio signals across that same body of water. It drove Europeans to discover the antibiotic penicillin and save millions of lives; to discover the theory of general relativity; to send the first space probe to perform a detailed study of a comet, dispatch a lander to its surface and, in a spectacular finale, to land on the comet itself.

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