In a short visit to Athens, Greece, Jan Worner, ESA Director General started his speech by saying that it might come as a surprise to hear that 37% of Copernicus Earth Observation funding program stems from the ESA budget. Adding that this is why it makes sense to make our voices heard on the vital issue of the future of our partnership with the U.K., even in the case of no deal Brexit.
Worner outlined how the intention of the Organization should align with the U.K. space program regardless of the outcome of Brexit. Aside from Copernicus, this collaboration can be taken for granted because, as explained by J. Worner, the ESA is an international organization beyond the scope of any single European country and in this framework cooperation with the U.K. has been settled.
Nevertheless, the problem of the Copernicus project is far more puzzling, for one, the E.U. is the primary financial contributor at 63%, and for another even if an agreement is reached for the economic issues, there are still some land-based stations in the U.K. that complicate the matter further. It has already been decided that the data center which backs the operation of the program will be transferred to Bologna by 2020.
However, many countries are willing to host land-based stations in case they need to be relocated from the U.K. One of those countries is Greece. As Christodoulos Protopapas, Chairman of Hellenic Space Agency implied in the Q&A session. J. Worner answered with a smile that Greece could host some land-based stations without those in the U.K. being removed. What’s more, he highlighted that the ESA needs the operational know-how in addition to the U.K. scientific research community. ESA knows that conquering space is no easy feat and all the resources are crucial if the target is to find a viable solution that will help the close cooperation in space projects between the E.U. and the U.K. despite political developments.
Overall, the whole situation is more than complicated. Space has no boundaries, and thus the boundaries of individual countries would need to be eliminated too. For example, the International Space Station has set the example of global cooperation, which makes the ESA very optimistic about the future. But, no one can rule out the possibility that mineral extraction from asteroids or the colonization of the moon could result in the creation of new borders in space. The White House has recently announced the creation of a Space Force that will be fully functional by 2020. The primary goal of this new military branch will be to safeguard the U.S.’ interests in outer space, proving that in the near future it is likely that borders will be drawn even in infinite space.
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