Highlights of the 4th European Space Policy Workshop

The Fourth European Space Policy Workshop "Enlarging the Space Policy Debate" took place on 4 February 2004 at the Leuven Town Hall, Leuven, Belgium. The full-day Workshop was co-organized by the Brussels-based space and telecommunications consultancy Systemics Network International and KU Leuven's Institute for International Law.


The period since the previous workshop in September 2003 had witnessed a fresh wave of policy developments, notably the adoption of the White Paper on European Space Policy, the conclusion of the EC/ESA Cooperation Agreement, adoption of the Agenda 2007 by ESA, and the decision to create a new Armaments Agency at EU level. The organizers therefore structured the programme to provide an opportunity for the space community and space policymakers to exchange information and views on these developments during the morning session of the workshop.

The White Paper set down various lines for developing future space policy within the framework of the European Union and in cooperation with the European Space Agency. A key element of the new policy is its relation to the citizen and society. To date, however, a truly broad debate on space policy has not taken place. The organizers therefore aimed to focus on how to facilitate broader public interest and participation, alongside examining critically how the issue of public involvement is currently being addressed. This was the subject of the second and the third panels of the workshop, which took place in the afternoon session.

The speakers for the first panel, "Recent Policy Developments", were Luc Tytgat of the European Commission, Michel Praet of ESA, Belgian Senator François Roelants du Vivier, Patrick Namer, of the Council of the European Union, and Prof. Joan Johnson-Freese, US Policy Adviser. Prof. Jan Wouters of KU Leuven chaired this panel.

The speakers for the second and the third panels, "Enlarging the Space Policy Debate" and "Practical Actions in Increasing Space Awareness and Activism", were Member of the European Parliament Ms Eryl McNally, Prof. Johnson-Freese, Frances Brown, Editor of Space Policy, Frank de Winne, European astronaut, Charles Frankel, geologist, writer and film producer, Andrew Millington, CEO of OMNI Communications, a film producer and leader of the initiative for European Public Awareness of Science (EuroPAWS), Prof. Sergio Volonte of ESA, and Kurt Vandenberghe, member of the Cabinet of Philippe Busquin. Dr Kevin Madders, SNI, chaired these panels.


Part I: Recent Policy Developments

Prof. Jan Wouters opened the First Part of the Workshop and introduced the panel speakers.

Prof. André Oosterlinck, Rector of KU Leuven, opened the Workshop. On KU Leuven's side, Prof Oosterlinck said, the University embarked on this series of high-level workshops because the University has not only the dual responsibility for teaching and research, but a crucial third function, namely to support the society as a whole. It is its duty before the European and international community to discuss challenges of general interest, to participate in an objective and well-informed debate and to assist in finding adequate responses to these challenges.

Prof. Oosterlinck noted that, more than ever, the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven is aware that space is Europe's common future. He mentioned some of the University's accomplishments in the space domain, both in research and teaching: several experiments from KU Leuven were on board the International Space Station; in September 2003 KU Leuven hosted a highly successful European summer course on space law and policy in cooperation with ESA and the European Centre for Space Law. Today, the University is in the process of bringing all of its research and teaching capacity together in what will become a truly Interdisciplinary Centre for Space Studies.

Prof. Oosterlinck noted that the workshop's central theme "enlarging the space policy debate" was especially relevant today: space policy is in need of "democratization". Individual European citizens and the public at large need to be more closely involved in the space policy debate if Europe wishes to succeed both in responding to huge challenges and to attain the enormous investments that will give us autonomy in access to space and obtaining the benefits of applications and knowledge.

Prof. Oosterlinck congratulated the organizers, Prof. Jan Wouters of the Leuven Institute for International Law, and Dr Kevin Madders of SNI, and wished all participants a very successful workshop.

Report on the White Paper on Space and on ESA-Commission Cooperation Agreement

Luc Tytgat, Head of the Space Policy Unit at the European Commission, and Michel Praet, Head of the ESA Office in Brussels, jointly presented the White Paper of European Space Policy and the EU/ESA Cooperation Agreement.

Mr Tytgat outlined the main priorities for the year 2004:

· Elaboration of the European Space Programme by the end of 2004
· Human space flight: Development of a wise men group to produce a Report
· Space and security: Creation of a dedicated working group
· Earth observation: Adoption of a Communication on GMES in February 2004 and its implementation
· Adoption of a Communication on Galileo and creation of further international partnerships
· Improvement of the situation with Arianespace
· Financing of Soyuz in Kourou.

These activities will be governed especially by the following documents:

· The new EU Constitutional Treaty, succeeding current EC competences
· The ESA Convention
· Europe and Space: turning to a new chapter (2000)
· Towards a European Space Policy (2001)
· Europe and Space (Parliament Resolution, 2001)
· White Paper on European Space Policy (2003)
· EC/ESA Framework Agreement (2003)
· European initiative for Growth (2003)
· ESA's "Agenda 2007".

Michel Praet mentioned that ESA's "Agenda 2007" included ambitious objectives for European space including a 30% net increase in public space expenditure. He outlined the philosophy adopted in this document.

· The EU's role is seen as political in the sense of bringing space onto Europe's political agenda as functional in the sense of it acting as a federator of demand for space resources;
· ESA's role is seen as making sure it keeps the most reliable and efficient technical capacities and skills and to act as the federator of the supply side;
· Member States and their agencies are responsible for contributing to the achievement of the way forward, including in the EU and ESA.

As regards the EU/ESA Cooperation Agreement both speakers see it as aiding the coherent and progressive development of an overall European Space Policy and providing the mechanisms for better coordination to achieve such goals. The Agreement was concluded for a period of four years, but could be extended for subsequent periods of four years.

The Interparliamentary Group Report

Senator François Roelants du Vivier, of the Belgian Senate and of the Parliament of the French Community, had just been elected Chairman of the Senate's Working Group on Space. In his report on the Interparliamentary Group on Space, he began by pointing out that, in a democracy, the final decision on the annual budget lies in the hands of the parliament, which can say "no" to the decision of the government. It is therefore of utmost importance that members of parliament are well informed about the space sector, its potential and its problems.

The idea of uniting members of the European national parliaments with a particular interest in space originated in 1996, when the French Parliamentary Space Group consulted the other national parliaments concerning this matter. A decisive step was taken when the first interparliamentary conference was organised in April 1999, which resulted in the adoption of a charter on interparliamentary co-operation.

Several conferences have taken place since 1999, the latest being in October 2003. They have become a platform for allowing expression of political ideas and showing the firm belief of the members in the need for a strong European space policy.

Mr Roelants du Vivier elaborated briefly on the Working Group on Space of the Belgian Senate, which was created in July 2002, noting that the group is not a formal committee. From the beginning, representatives of the relevant European institutions, the federal government, science and industry have been involved in its proceedings. Furthermore, a number of Belgian members of the European Parliament participate, while members of the Advisory Committee on Technological and Scientific Affairs are invited to the meetings.

CFSP and ESDP aspects of the EU Space Policy, and the possible future role of the Armaments Agency

Major-General Patrick Namer, a special advisor to the EU Council Secretary General and High Representative in charge of the ESDP aspects of the EU Space Policy (Mr Solana), noted that the EU Council did not initially seek to develop defence aspects of a space policy, as a consensus would have been difficult to achieve; views on common defence and industrial interests are still very different among the EU members. However, the space dimension of the European Security and Defence Policy is extremely important and the approach now being formed is therefore pragmatic and is based on capacity building.

Against this context, a new actor, the European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency (the Agency) has been created recently. The head of the Agency Establishment Team was appointed in January 2004 and the Agency's major tasks identified. These will certainly have an influence on the aerospace sector in the future.

While there have been other attempts to create a European armaments structure that have delivered little substance, there are two major differences with this Agency. First, the Agency is part of a comprehensive vision, which may lead in due time to a European Defence Policy. The political will to move forward exists, as demonstrated by agreement on including the Agency in the European Constitution as well as the launching of several Crisis Management Operations in 2003. Second, the scope of the Agency covers the fields of all previous attempts but also requirements definition and relations with the armaments market and the industrial base. Indeed, the Agency has to have a comprehensive remit if Europe wants to be able to face the challenges of the next 20 years, and remain a strategic actor with adequate military capabilities and a strong defence industry.

China's first manned space flight and policy implications

Prof. Joan Johnson-Freese, Chair of the Department of National Security Studies at the Naval War College, USA, gave an overview of the Chinese manned space flight program and its impact on other countries.

On 15 October 2003 Lt. Col. Yang Liwei lifted off into space from Jiuquan launch site just after 9 a.m., returning 21 hours later after 16 orbits. China celebrated this achievement with great demonstrations of pride.

The entire programme from the very beginning was highly politicised and managed by the military authorities in great secrecy. "CZ", the launch vehicle, is also an abbreviation from a military programme. The China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC) that was responsible for conducting this programme was created to unite a workforce of 150,000 and 130 subordinate organizations. The prototype for the Chinese spacecraft was an enlarged and updated Soyuz. It consists of a service module, a command module, and an orbital module.

Liwei's flight strengthened China's position in Asia and enabled it to compete for leadership with Japan in the region. The US, Russia and the European Space Agency and the Commission all congratulated China. But there were significant sub-textual differences in the way they did so. The US did not enlarge on the implications of the achievement, whereas Russia in particular welcomed China into the family of space-faring nations; the European signals were in similar vein. Most of the recent comments from the US indicate suspicion.

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Part II: Enlarging the Space Policy Debate

Dr Kevin Madders opened the second and third parts of the Workshop. He noted that not since the 1960s are so many fundamental issues being addressed simultaneously, nor have we seen events that similarly command the public's attention, "with cars on Mars and eyes in the skies of two planets". This means a great opportunity to involve and form public opinion. And this is what is called for by the emerging space policy. But how should this opportunity be realized? Here, we have to face the fact that media coverage today is scattered and haphazard, while, historically, we in Europe have not developed the kind of subculture formed from the web of institutes, associations, clubs, conferences and so on that nurtures space debate in the US. Nor is the connection between the media, film and drama and the space community, including researchers and analysts, as strong as in the US. Changes in mindset, methods and indeed the sector's "subculture" itself are needed, if Europe's new space policy is to touch more constituencies and speak more to the citizen. The invitation is hence to explore how we can improve the quality of the communication and the conversation through "enlarging the space debate", addressed in the second part of the workshop, followed by focus on the practical means for encouraging greater "space awareness and space activism" in the third part, including through looking at examples from film and drama.

Dr Madders then introduced the speakers.

Democratizing space: bringing the citizen into the debate

Ms Eryl McNally, Member of the European Parliament, noted that in order to pursue their policies democratic decision-makers need the support of their electorate, and the electorate has to be informed well in order to make the right choices. She identified a number of dangers that arise from an uninformed citizenry: resistance to allocations of public funding, a greater chance that inappropriate projects will go forward, lack of accountability, indifference to future shortages of skilled personnel, and insufficient support to correct the increasing lack of independence the EU is experiencing.

Put positively, what information can be useful to raise public interest in space? It is important that a citizen understands how space is involved in everyday life situations, like telecommunications, disaster management, providing aid to the developing world, and scientific research. She also noted that space could provide drivers in improving the attraction of science and technology careers.

However, even more important than the understanding of practical implications of space is the awe and wonder of space exploration for a human being.

Ms McNally invited the workshop participants, and the public generally, to ask politicians' about their attitudes towards space prior to voting - this should make each politician consider space seriously. A good opportunity will be in advance of the June elections for the European Parliament.

Critical Thoughts on NASA's public outreach strategy

Prof. Joan Johnson-Freese, speaking on NASA's outreach strategy, noted that bringing space into the public consciousness is easy to talk about, but very hard to do. It is difficult enough to get a mission off the ground. But achieving appropriate public relations can exceed the capabilities and interest of those this involves. In particular NASA and other scientists, engineers and program managers tend to underestimate the importance of public outreach programmes and do not want to be bothered with PR; when they do get involved, it too often tends to be in a manner that speaks to their own concerns and does not chime with the public's.

Conclusions that can be drawn from NASA's experience in public outreach activities are:

· Human space flight tends to attract more interest than unmanned missions when the public is able to react to heroism, etc. Scientific value tends to be secondary;
· Politicians must be educated on space matters, as they are often the ones that actually have to convince the public of the importance of space programs;
· Mission failures will occur from time to time, at which point the press tends to become investigatory in a manner which is often damaging for the image of space exploration (example: the Challenger accident);
· Public opinion is fickle. Even at the height of Apollo, people liked space activity, but viewed it as expendable;
· A good website is a strong public awareness tool: the NASA site attracts peaks of "hits" during missions like the present Mars ones;
· In the US the best way to assure long-term support is to tie space to a broader strategic vision or context: international cooperation, leadership, national identity, and particularly security;
· The interest in space tourism demonstrates the desire people feel to identify personally with the space endeavour, even to the point of participation.

Enlarging the Space Policy Debate by constituencies

Frances Brown, Editor of Space Policy, presented some suggestions on how to involve the various circles of the wider public in the space policy debate. While conceding that current Mars missions were attracting a lot of public attention, she questioned how deep and long-lasting such attention was. Her own recent sample survey of people from different backgrounds suggested that most had not actively followed the Mars missions and had little in-depth knowledge of what space activities in general were about. Moreover, many felt that space brought few benefits to people on Earth or that there were more pressing problems on Earth to sort out. She proposed, taking into account comments also made by Ms McNally, enlarging the space debate and public participation through:

- much greater efforts to include space in education
- facilitating attendance at space-related events by seemingly non-space players who are or could become users of space technology
- much more and better communication among the various fields within the space community (business people, space managers, communicators, space lawyers and scientists , etc.)
- greater use of the potential the internet offers to deliver the space experience
organization of "town meetings", where specially selected groups are invited to discuss a space topic relevant to their field
- increased, consistent use of press releases direct to specialist publications and professional associations in fields where space applications are of relevance (agriculture, medicine, town planning, environment, transport, rally driving, archaeology, materials science, etc.)
- much more effort on including women in the debate, as they are typically less supportive of space but as they - make up half the population they must not be ignored.

The space debate must furthermore concentrate more closely on issues that are important to ordinary users/consumers of space applications and to the concerns of policy makers. Thus it makes sense to identify and highlight the areas where space responds to politicians' interests.

Bringing manned space flight to the European public

Frank de Winne, European Astronaut, spoke from his experience of meeting various audiences and promoting space. He noted that each audience requires a different approach and that it is not easy to measure the impact of such events. For one thing, the communication is mostly one-way, from the speaker to the audience. For another, how can one gauge the influence on the participants' lives, except anecdotally? It is nevertheless a primordial duty to inform and educate the different sections of the general public, including policy makers, students, families, industry and children, because for all of them space has a very important role to play in achieving Europe's objectives, whether one is speaking about extending democracy, boosting economic growth, providing societal security, increasing Europe's strategic independence or creating the European identity.

How does one justify space budgets? Again, one cannot rely on quantitative tools too much, because so much is qualitative. Space brings both technological/economic and emotional benefits, and the more people realize this, the more open they will be to accepting the costs of space exploration.

They Walked on Mars, a feature film

Charles Frankel
, geologist and writer and one of the actors in the movie "On a marché sur Mars", presented this movie as an example of film as a means to engage the individual TV viewer in science aspects of human planetary exploration. The film is a fiction documentary produced by a new French film studio, Bonne Pioche. It shows a team of 5 astronauts, including the well-known Shakespearean actor and mountain-climber Brian Blessed, landing on Mars and climbing the tallest volcano on the planet, which is also the tallest in the solar system. "Astronauts" were profiled for their real-life expertise in biology, geology, engineering and astronomy; a woman world champion in mountain-climbing provided an intentional link to the world of sport.

The funding for the movie came from France and Great Britain who had previously funded documentaries about climbing the tallest peaks on Earth. The idea was to show the unlimited capabilities of humankind as well as to popularize space exploration. The costs were in the region of 1 million euros per hour.

Part III: Practical Actions in Increasing Space Awareness and Activism

Approaches to new TV programming presenting today's Space in human terms

Andrew Millington, Managing Director of OMNI Communications, presented his views on the subject of the importance of TV Drama in popularizing "Space". Realistic TV drama offers real advantages in publicising space. It can portray good role models of scientists and engineers; it can also transmit the buzz of being at the frontier of real research, and do so in the context of different epochs and lifestyles. And TV drama reaches large audiences from right across the population. For space, three types of drama come into question:

· Historical (like Pasteur, shown during the presentation)
· Contemporary
· Future Real.

The first genre has been exploited for space to some extent, almost entirely in the US. The second genre, contemporary drama, offers specific challenges, because it touches current sensitivities. It can capture real issues before events happen. An example, which won one of MIDAS Prizes last year, depicts in a fiction movie the consequences of a deadly flu virus spread by chickens (clip from Virus au Paradis).

The last genre, Future Real, looks ahead to realistic scenarios, extrapolating real science to possible futures. A clip was shown on a possible future for the Internet, which explored conflicting ways of dealing with the implications of autonomous intelligence arising in the internet. This programme (NEWBORN) obtained a script grant from UK PAWS and won two prizes.

There are numerous possibilities for action to encourage new scripts for "Space" scenarios; it is essential to help writers and producers to be well informed in this area and to provide good incentives for busy professionals to embrace Space based ideas.

ESA publicity experience and future plans

Prof. Sergio Volonte, Coordinator for the Astronomy and Physics Mission Science Programme Coordination and Planning Office at ESA, mentioned that, over the last few years, the ESA Science Programme Directorate has come to recognize the importance of developing new ways and means to attract the interest of the public at large for ESA in general and space science in particular. This has resulted in the setting up of a Science Communication Office with the task of developing a programme of communication activities and defining the relevant marketing strategy to reach enlarged audiences among the general public and increase awareness for European space science. In addition to conventional PR activities (distribution of ESA printed publicity materials, organization of events, website) Prof. Volonte mentioned some non-traditional ones to reach the public at non-space-related events. For example, ESA participated at a postage stamps show, with its own stamps, and at a car show, attracting 100-300 thousand visitors to its stand, which featured a red Ferrari incorporating space technology and providing a thematic connection to the Mars Express mission.

The experience of managing ESA PR activities by the Science department helped ESA scientists understand better the importance and the mechanics of public outreach programmes and to test their own ideas (often unconventional) in designing and running such programmes which led to very good results. ESA's plans for the future are to replace this strategy with one based on enhancing ESA's corporate branding.

Introduction of Space Studies Project at KU Leuven

Prof. Dr Jan Wouters, Director of Institute for International Law at KU Leuven and one of the Workshops co-organizers, announced creation of an Interdisciplinary Centre for Space Studies (ICSS) at KU Leuven. This followed Prof. Oosterlinck's announcement in the morning, at which the ICSS project had first been publicly revealed. ICSS will combine existing academic strengths at KU Leuven and build a strong educational and research programme, including a Masters in Space Studies. It will also assist in shaping Belgian, European and international space policy and act as point of reference for responding to research-driven demands of Europe's space industry.

Closing address on European space policy and public participation

Kurt Vandenberghe, member of cabinet of Commissioner Philippe Busquin, delivered the closing address on the Commissioner's behalf. He stated that the main task of the Commission was to provide a political framework for space within the EU and make sure the EU's intervention provides added value to the development of the space sector, for example through an appropriate regulatory framework. It is particularly important that the Commission animates and structures the demand for space applications at a European level. Space assets and tools become essential instruments to help realize the EU's objectives in a range of policy fields. He confirmed the Commission's commitment to help increasing the public's involvement in space, as focused on in the workshop. Seven hundred and forty thousand additional researchers are needed in the EU and the Commission sees it as its task to attract more young people to science, partly through using the emblematic potential of space. A European project for manned space flight should also be discussed in that context. Commissioner Busquin is working hard to ensure that space is reflected in the 2007-2013 EU budget; this was exactly the reason why he was not able to be at the workshop because the Commission was finalizing its first blueprint for the future Financial Perspectives. Today the EU as a whole spends 5.4 billion euros a year on space. The White Paper on Space recommends a substantial increase in public funding for space. Commissioner Busquin is proposing to double the EU budget for Research and Development, with an explicit mention of space. Space is a sector with a future. Europe should make sure that it is part of that future.

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The presentations led to lively discussion. The ESA goal of a budget increase of 30% raised questions whether this was realistic. Michel Praet of ESA expects this increase to come from the increased demand to satisfy EU policies.

The Workshop participants noted that the recently announced US space budget of USD 12 billion for the Moon/Mars scenario may be a political rather than a financial estimate but that it had attracted public support for ambitious goals for space. The Aurora project, undertaken by ESA on a study basis, seems much more feasible in light of its steady, staged approach over several years, but very few people outside the space community know about it.

A need for a comprehensive study on public perception of space was identified. It was mentioned that an OECD study was under way and its results should be published shortly, but this will survey the sector and not public opinion. A representative of the Belgian Federal Science Office mentioned that ESA has plans in this direction and promised to report on them (for the www.eurospacepolicy.org website). Prof. Johnson-Freese advised that it is important that the public understands the practical uses of space, as a first step to garnering support for ambitious goals.

A debate over employment policies showed that there is a shortage of trained science researchers alongside a shortage of jobs in the space sector, revealing a need to find a coherent strategy for education in science and industry in Europe as well as to address the problems of the space sector. The participants agreed, however, that space education in secondary schools has to be reinforced and several lessons on space should be introduced within the physics curriculum in particular.

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Following the discussion the Workshop Co-Chairs thanked the workshop speakers and participants for their contribution as well as the sponsors, BNSC and the Belgian Federal Science Office, ESA and the Commission for making the event possible; and invited the participants to enjoy the refreshment kindly offered by Stella Artois in the Great Hall below.