AE 130

The Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe

What’s the difference between the space agency and other departments of government such as health, social security or defence? Perhaps the difference is that, to the public, the purpose of the more traditional ministries is self-evident, while that of space is not so obvious at all?

The same would be true of research councils, of course, or of public support for the arts. Yet the space agencies have big big ambitions. Extremely costly ambitions: to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars, and set up permanent scientific bases on those worlds.

If their political masters are not willing to put up the funds, then the agencies must go behind the politicians’ backs and address the taproot of democratic power: the people. That, at any rate, seems to be the logic behind the European Space Agency’s new exercise in public consultation, the Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe.

On 10 September, groups of members of the general public were assembled in capitals in all of ESA’s 22 member states simultaneously. In the UK the event took place in Edinburgh. I took the Caledonian sleeper train north to play my part as a typical (!) citizen.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 128

Lecture by Professor Wörner: United Space in Europe

RAeS_Woerner_small

Prof. Wörner at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, 19 July 2016

The Director General of the European Space Agency, Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner, gave an eloquent and uplifting talk at Britain’s Royal Aeronautical Society on 19 July.

But was the inspiration just a little too starry-eyed to make political sense?

While the public is focused on society’s domestic problems, and while at the same time the cost of each astronaut ticket to the Moon is up in the hundreds of millions of euros, Moon Village will remain an impractical dream, and Europe will continue to be no more than a junior partner in international space projects.

It would be a shame if no way were found out of this cul de sac, for Professor Jan Wörner has an infectious enthusiasm and deserves to see his ideas come to fruition.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 123

When Will Jan Wörner Get His Moon Village?

Is it yet time to return astronauts to the Moon?

One of the great formative experiences of my childhood was following the news about the Apollo Moon missions. I waited up all night to see the live TV of the first moonwalk in July 1969. So do I want to see a return to the Moon? Of course I do!

ESA’s concept for a lunar base

ESA’s concept for a lunar base (Science Photo Library)

And as I am the author of a full-length science fiction novel partly set in and around the future lunar base of Selenopolis in Mare Foecunditatis, as well as in Sinus Medii at the centre of the lunar nearside, you can believe me when I say I’ve given these matters some thought!

Now Jan Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency, has been speaking about his plan for a Moon Village – a permanent, manned base station on the Moon… much as I would love to see astronauts walking on the Moon again, I have to conclude that Professor Wörner is going out on a limb here, pushing his dreams way beyond any realistic political or entrepreneurial support.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.