13 November 2008. In view of the upcoming ESA Ministerial Conference, this issue of “ESPI Perspectives” analyses the strategic importance of European autonomy in the field of human spaceflight and makes the case for decisive steps into this direction.
After losing support in the early 1990s the idea of autonomy in human spaceflight is slowly entering the European agenda again. However, Europe is in dire need of a comprehensive discussion on the political merits and consequences of autonomy rather than responding to external factors alone. It is necessary to ask what values and benefits are associated with human spaceflight and what risks follow from dependency respectively. Also, a better understanding of the political relations autonomy enables (or complicates) is required. After examining past and present experience several conclusions can be drawn: Autonomy in human spaceflight serves important values, although of a quite intangible nature and with rather long-term impacts on society. Also, rather than impeding cooperation, autonomy will put Europe in a more favorable position for entering into cooperative activities.
By enabling a system-of-system architecture European autonomy does not necessarily lead to duplication of efforts, but instead limits the impact of unexpected decisions of cooperation partners. Likewise, Europe will still feel pressure for international coordination due to safety requirements and will still have to respond to political dynamics. Finally, autonomy will foreclose any monopolistic or duopolistic structures, by which one or two space powers can set the terms of interaction according to its/their political and/or economic interests alone.
Recent ESPI Visiting Researcher Mischa Hansel
This issue of “ESPI Perspectives” has been prepared by Mischa Hansel, Doctorate Candidate and lecturer at the Institute for Political Science at Cologne University. Mischa Hansel has recently spent one month at ESPI as a Visiting Researcher.