The results of the public consultations on the European Space Policy

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The European Commission released figures on the public consultations on the European Space Policy, which were finished on March 15th. 608 entities answered the questions from the Commission.

The Commission has collected 608 opinions from the public consultations on the European Space Policy, which began at the turn of 2010/2011. Following is a brief elaboration of the results published by the European Commission.

The characterization of respondents

European Parliament / Credits: European ParliamentFirst of all individuals (39%) and academic institutions (29%) answered the calling. The next largest groups were micro and small enterprises (7%) and government entities (7%). Also 15 NGOs answered the questions (2.5% of respondents). The national share coincides with the degree of development of space technologies in various countries. Most participants (more than 100) came from Germany and France. They are followed by Belgium (86), Italy (62), Austria (33), Spain (36), United Kingdom (26), the Netherlands and Sweden (both 24). Poland sent four answers. From two countries, Estonia and Finland, no response was received. The activities of the respondents, which took part in the consultation, were in almost 70% somehow related to the space sector. About 12%, were engaged in the manufacture of spacecraft and technologies directly associated with spaceflight or were users of space technology. The next largest group (5%) were those involved in space policy.

Space risks awareness

The first set of questions dealt with outer space risks awareness, also known as space situational awareness (SSA), i.e. issues of space weather, space debris and near-Earth objects (NEO). The vast majority of respondents were aware of these risks (86%). Only 2% of the involved people and institutions did not know of the SSA problems. Almost 60% answered that the risk covered by the SSA may interfere or pose a problem for their own statutory activities. Almost 1/3 replied that such connection does not exist. Again, the vast majority, 70% of the respondents, believes that the authorities should act to reduce the risk of threats from outer space, still marginal 2% had the opposite view.

Questions were asked whether the EU should develop its own measures to protect spacecrafts from collisions and space weather, with the explanation that the EU currently uses such resources from other countries. More than 57% of subjects responded that the EU should develop its own technical capabilities, preferably complementary to the measures used now. 26% would like to have a completely independent infrastructure. Every tenth respondent prefers the status quo. On the question who should be responsible for the construction of such infrastructure, 51% of the entities and individuals responded that it should be developed in a joint effort of the European Union and its Member States. Every third respondent said that the EU authorities should play a major role in the creation of such a system. The Construction only by Member States is accepted only by 5% of the consultation participants. In regard to the SSA costs, more than 50% of the responses indicated, that the sources of the funding are irrelevant, as long as the system works effectively. Almost 30% of the respondents believe that the EU should jointly bear most of the cost. As many as 52% of participants did not reply to this question. The survey also asked about private capital participation in the financing of the SSA system. 70% of the responses authorized funding from both private and state sources. Funding only from public funds was noted in almost 20% of the responses, and only 2% of the responses wanted private funds to cover the expenses.

Space usage

When asked, whether the EU should engage itself an activities related to the space exploration, which currently is lead by ESA and its member states, the vast majority of respondents answered affirmatively, pointing out various reasons for such a decision. Most (69%; multiple answers could be chosen) responded that this will contribute to the scientific and technological development of the EU.

Another question referred to the suggested level of EU space spending compared to expenditures incurred by the United States. The question indicated that the US spend  $10 billion annually for  pace usage, in total. The lack of central funding (funding by Member States and ESA only) was preferred by 70 subjects, i.e. 11%. Nearly one in three(30%) said that it should not be more than half of what the United States expedites. Another 30% wished for more than half of the expenses incurred by the United States. One in five (22%) wanted space spending on the US level. Expenditures greater than in the US were suggested by 48 respondents (almost 8%). Nearly 84% of the participants share the opinion that the European Union should bear the costs of the International Space Station to the extent of the EU’s role in global space exploration or on a moderate level. Only one in ten answering gave the opinion that the EU should not pay for the ISS maintenance. Participants were also asked to indicate on what exactly the funding should focus on the ISS. The greatest support had expenses related to the development of new technologies, which were useful in space and on Earth. Every third respondent replied that it is important to allow enough EU funding for each of the Member States to send their astronauts into space. Almost as many respondents answered that the benefits of the station program have little meaning for them.

The organizations and individuals participating in the consultations were also asked to list the areas of exploration, which would be addressed by the EU, if it had a chance to do it. Nearly 58% of respondents answered that the Community should share the same time on unmanned and manned exploration. Every fifth wished unmanned remote exploration above all and less than one in ten wanted to concentrate on manned exploration. States should strive to send people into deep space, that is outside the space station. Nearly every fifth respondent had the opposite view. Over half (52%) directly supported the potential construction of an European manned spacecraft.

Innovative space potential

The consultation participants were asked whether they realize the role of space related programs in generating innovation in space and other sectors. Nearly 70% of the participants were convinced of such a correlation. 10% of participants did not know or knew little of it. Almost two thirds of participants also saw the opportunity to develop their own activities in connection with a potential EU investment in space exploration. Nearly 15% of respondents did not see such opportunities . Half of the participants saw chances for development of small and medium-sized enterprises in such circumstances. Nearly 18% of responses indicated no or little chance for development of SMEs in the case of EU involvements in space exploration.

Also, more than half of the respondents said that it will positively affect the younger generation residing in the European Union. Not much less, respectively, 49% and 46% said that it will help to anticipate the challenges currently faced by our civilization, and that it will indirectly improve the socio-economic status of Union citizens. 28% of respondents held opposite views, with two main justifications: there are more important problems faced by the EU, and the fact that such activity is only important for interested entities.  Among the roles that the EU could play in such activity, usually three things were pointed out: the role of financing, coordinating and highest level decision-making (political status). The least of the respondents see the EU only in the last-mentioned role.

Article prepared by the Kosmonauta.net – Polish space consulting, R&D and news provider company – based on the European Commission report.

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