12 September 2008. The new ESPI Report on space exploration is intended to pave the way towards a profound reflection on the future position and role of Europe in space exploration and provides a contribution to strategic policy-making at the European level.
After a long hiatus, space exploration has returned in recent years to the top of the political agenda of a growing number of countries. Following the changing geopolitics of space activities, new actors are getting involved in space exploration principally for international prestige reasons. The space exploration context is thus evolving and it is expected that space exploration in the next 20 years will present increasing challenges as well as opportunities for Europe to remain a major space power.
ESPI Research Fellow Nicolas Peter
The study “Space Exploration 2025: Global Perspectives and Options for Europe” conducted in spring 2008 led by Research Fellow Nicolas Peter first identifies and singles out the critical long-term meta-trends in five main areas that will shape the next 20 years: the economy, demography, energy, environment and science and technology. The main geopolitical drivers are also presented. Since most of these trends differ considerably across the various parts of the world, the general analysis is supplemented by a more detailed examination of the socio-economic and geopolitical developments of current actors in space exploration (i.e. countries outside Europe involved in the Global Exploration Strategy) as well as potential newcomers to the domain to provide an integrated view of the future. Eleven countries are considered, with nine countries whose space agencies are part of the Global Exploration Strategy (GES) initiative (Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the Ukraine and the United States) as well as two countries with interesting economic potential and some significant space experience (Brazil and South Africa).
On the basis of this work, the set of factors affecting the evolution of the space context are analyzed. The resulting emerging trends in space exploration are described and an overview of the current and future space exploration plans and strategies of the major space-faring countries as well as of the potential newcomers is provided, including an analysis of their relations with Europe at the political and space level. European space exploration plans and activities are presented as well as the potential evolution of the European space context in the coming years. Finally, in order to adapt to the changing space exploration context, policy options for Europe, the timing issues to consider as well as partnerships opportunities are presented to give a preview of the possible evolution of space exploration. This study is a reflection on the future position of Europe in space exploration contributing to strategic policy-making. It puts forth a strong plea for the debate on future space exploration strategies to be set in a broader geopolitical context, as well as in perspective with a more dynamic view of the future. The relationship between space activities and international politics is one of symbiosis, and therefore, any projections about the future of space exploration must take the global political environment into account. The purpose of this foresight study consists therefore in providing a better understanding of the variables influencing the evolution of the space context in which Europe will have to operate until 2025.