From the space our planet appears to be a tiny blue point surrounded by endless black of the Universe. This is quite funny since from the perspective of ourselves the situation is completely opposite. We see the magnitude, diversification of species and mystery still not leaving our home. However, the essential role with challenging the difficulties, here on our planet, plays the cosmic space.
Today, the Earth is undergoing global changes. In order to react accurately we need to look for the solutions collectively and to be frank, we know how to do it in Europe. Since Europeans cooperate efficiently from the end of the II WW, they know how to change the idea into reality. The collaboration in the area of politics, economy or even environment does not surprise at all, but the investigation of cosmic space – not necessarily. One can ask why the cooperation in this field among European countries is the primary condition while the United States, Russia or China do it on their own initiative. Well… it’s all about the money. Since Europe is full of small states, separate financial capabilities are relatively limited.
ESA’s mission and structure
“ESA’s purpose shall be to provide for, and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems.”
This is why, in 1975 the European Space Agency (ESA) was created bringing together at first ten European countries. Considered as an intergovernmental organization established for the implementation of a common European program of research and exploration of space in its tasks also include supporting development of a modern and competitive industry in all member states. The number of participant states increased significantly throughout years to reach 23 members this year (based on a separate agreement Canada is its participant as well). Since not every EU member state is affiliated, the ESA is not recognized as the European Union’s agency and still stands as an independent organization. However, since 2004, pursuant to the Framework Agreement legal cooperation between these two organizations is tangible because for now, the EU is the largest donor to ESA’s budget.
- Mandatory programs: funded by contributions from the member states (their amount is proportional to the national income of individual countries). These programs include space exploration (the construction and use of the equipment for such research), scientific programs (physics of the solar system), astronomy and fundamental physics, technology research, educational programs, etc.
- Optional programs: financed only by countries committed to them. Participation of respective countries is determined by negotiations conducted separately for each program. The scope of such operations is not precisely specified. They include inter alia the construction of a European rocket, robotics and software techniques (telecommunication, earth observation, navigation) and more recently the Space Situational Awareness (SSA).
There is about 500 million inhabitants in Europe nowadays. Therefore we are facing fundamental challenges having a real influence to our future. Not talking only about social, cultural or religious transformations caused for instance by current inflow of immigrants, but also technological, industrial and ecological changes. What is more, sometimes the only appropriate solutions for the Earth are hidden far away above our heads. This is why Europeans work on a milestone projects and they do it right. In 2004 the Rosetta mission was launched and is described as a key mission of ESA’s space research program Horizon 2000. In its implementation the agency cooperates with national space agencies and NASA. The purpose of the mission is to carry out necessary research to know the origins of comets, as well as to explain the relationship between cometary and interstellar matter and their significance for the formation of the solar system. In August 2014 the space probe has arrived to its target and entered its orbit being simultaneously the first probe in history landed on the surface of the comet. Polish contribution to such crucial project is essential for the success of the mission. Constructed by the methods developed at the Warsaw University of Technology, a penetrator MUPUS carries out geological research on the comet.
Another program, this time only for Europe, is Galileo – Europe’s own satellite navigation system and finally will consist of 30 satellites spread on the Earth’s orbit. The system is about to be the alternative to American GPS and Russian GLONASS but, in contrary to them, will be controlled by civil institutions. However, the navigation system is still under construction and is not going to be efficient till 2020. Satellite navigation systems are used in many areas of the economy, including the energy network monitoring, logistics, air traffic management or even live saving. It is estimated that 6-7% of the European GDP depends on satellite navigation applications. The satellite technology market itself is worth 124 billion euro. Thanks to Galileo, till 2020 this amount is expected to increase to 250 billion euro.
 Convention of establishment of a European Space Agency, Article II Purpose, SP-1317, 2010.
 Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency, OJ L261, 2004.