ESA adopts a budget of 17,000 million euros and integrates new astronauts

ESA adopts a budget of 17,000 million euros and integrates new astronauts

ESA adopts a budget of 17,000 million euros and integrates new astronauts

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At the end of two intense days in Paris, the representatives of the Member States of the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to grant it a budget of 16.9 billion euros for the next three years. The agency also introduced its new astronaut promotion.

Every three years, the European space world holds its breath. The “ministerial» of the ESA is in fact an event that marks the life of the agency during the following years. During two days in Paris, the representatives of its Member States met to define their budget and the programs that it must follow for the next three years. And the ESA came with an ambitious request: a 25% increase in its budget for a total of 18.5 billion euros. For its general director, the Austrian Josef Aschbacher, it was indeed a matter of not jumping on the bandwagon, in a very competitive sector dominated by USA Y China.

After tough negotiations, the account is not there: it is therefore 16,900 million euros that have been granted. However, satisfaction was in order, still an increase of 17% compared to the last financial year. ” This is quite remarkable given the context “explained Josef Aschabacher. ” We have a financial crisis, an inflation crisis, an energy crisis. There is still Covid-19, the effects of which are still being felt by many. Despite these circumstances, I am impressed that we have been successful. »

In fact, this increase will make it possible to secure the main ESA programs, especially with regard to scientific missions, telecommunications and even satellite navigation.


Validated projects

However, there were still many unknowns. The one-year postponement of the maiden launch of the new Ariane-6 rocket carries additional costs. Almost 200 million euros were missing from the equation then, they were insured. The other pending project concerns the Argonaut, an automated cargo ship capable of sending heavy payloads to the Moon. The project has been validated, the first studies will be able to start and we expect a first launch in the early 2030s.

Still in the field of exploration, but this time towards Mars, the Council of Ministers agreed to save the ExoMars mission. This is a very ambitious project that plans to send the Rosalind Franklin rover to the red planet to dig up and study possible traces of past life. The machine is ready, it was going to take off in September, but on board a Russian launcher. The mission was in fact a partnership between ESA and its counterpart Roscosmos, abandoned since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Since then, all the options have been considered, such as reserving a place for it in the museum, but in the end, 360 million euros were negotiated to take over the project. ESA will be able to start developing a European lander, for which NASA should provide support.

Also read: Space: The largest impact crater ever observed on Mars revealed by NASA

Projects probably postponed

Despite this good news for the sector, the European Space Agency has still not obtained the expected sum, and this will have consequences. ” No project cancellation “Josef Aschbacher promises, but downward adjustments and probably postponements. Earth observation is one of the most affected areas. Although the budget has increased compared to 2019, Member States have provided only 80% of the requested funding. Therefore, the ESA will have to return to its members ” between December and February, to develop a plan for what can be done “, assured Simonetta Chelli, director of the sector at the agency. Despite this, ESA has obtained agreement to launch Aeolus-2, a wind observation satellite, which follows a groundbreaking first mission in this field.

Finally, the last important aspect concerned human spaceflight. While the decision to provide Europe with sovereign means to put its astronauts into orbit is scheduled for the 2025 ministerial, the decision to guarantee Europe’s presence on board the International Space Station until 2030 has already been taken, in consultation with its international partners.

class of 2022

This also led to the introduction of the new class of astronauts. So there are five to add to the seven that are already in service. After almost two years of selection and 22,500 candidates on the starting line, the Swiss Marco Sieber, the Spanish Pablo Fernández, the Belgian Raphaël Liégeois, the British Rosemary Coogan and the French Sophie Adenot make their dream come true. ” I dreamed of it since I was a child, but it still hasn’t come true “, smiled the Frenchman, the country’s eleventh astronaut. ” I expect a lot from him in terms of science, technology and being able to transmit to young people.. Air and Space Forces helicopter test pilot Sophie Adenot will begin her training in the spring with her new teammates. She then she will have to wait until they are assigned their first mission to the ISS before being able to consider the Moon, within the framework of NASA’s Artemis program in which ESA collaborates.

At the same time, the Agency is also creating a reserve astronaut corps. There are eleven who have joined him, but without guarantee of flight for the moment. Finally, another novelty, the British John McFall becomes the first parastronaut. A bronze medalist in the 200m at the Paralympics, his leg was amputated above the knee after a motorcycle accident. He was selected to participate in a feasibility study program for spaceflight for people with disabilities.

To listen also: Are we heading towards a space war?

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