Thursday, 3 February 2011

Europlanet at the European Parliament

Britta Thomsen MEP welcoming
guests to the Dinner Debate
The Europlanet team had a fascinating evening last night at the European Parliament with a dinner debate on “Europe’s challenge: to lead the New Age of Space Exploration”.  The event was co-hosted by Europlanet and the MEPs Britta Thomsen and Teresa Riera Madurell MEP.  We are indebted to Ms Thomsen and to her assistant, Thomas Larsen for the enthusiasm and assistance that they have given us in organising the debate.

Michel Blanc and Reinhard

Europlanet's aim in organising the event was to raise the profile of planetary science within the framework of the European Space Policy.  We were delighted with the turn-out for the debate.  Seven MEPs attended for at least part of the evening, with some others represented by their assistants. Although it is not clear at this stage how space exploration will fit into Framework 8, there seems to be some good support within the Parliment for ensuring that Europe maintains the leading role it has carved out for itself in planetary science in recent years.

David Southwood

We had six speakers during the dinner.  Ms Thomsen welcomed the guests and set the scene, then Michel Blanc, Europlanet's coordinator talked about the need for a strong network of space agencies, research institutes and industry involved in planetary research.  David Southwood, the Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at ESA gave us the long view and highlighted some of Europe's recent successful missions, then Anja Andersen gave a truly inspirational talk on how space exploration affects European Citizens in answering some of the most fundemental questions.  Joel Poncy reviewed of the role of planetary exploration in industry and job creation in Europe.  Finally Reinhard Schulte-Braucks of DG Enterprise, European Commission gave an overview of space exploration projects funded under the Commissions current Framework Seven Programme and outlined the steps the Commission is taking to prepare for Framework Eight.

Anja Andersen
There were various recurring themes through the speeches - firstly how the interdisciplinary nature of planetary science provides fertile ground for innovation, leading to new research areas and new technologies.  Secondly, collaboration is a vital part of planetary exploration - whether between scientists and engineers, academics and industry, or between nations and continents - individuals can't do it alone.  The added value that space exploration brings was highlighted in every talk.  Thirdly, Europe has really come of age in the last decade and is a major player now in the field of planetary exploration.  There are many exciting opportunities to partner with other space agencies in the years ahead.  Finally, the inspirational value of exploration - all of us involved have a responsibility to ensure that European citizens can engage and participate in the adventure of exploring our Solar System.