Press Release

European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) welcomes outcomes from ESA Ministerial Council meeting 2017

While the overall level of subscription to ESA programmes is high and the ExoMars programme is secured, ESSC is concerned at the levels of undersubscription to the Earth Observation and Science in Space Environment programmes

The European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) - the independent expert committee on space sciences - has welcomed outcomes from the recent ESA Ministerial Council meeting that took place in Lucern, Switzerland on 1-2 December 2016.  During the Ministerial Council, an overall budget of €10.3 billion was agreed by Member States of the European Space Agency for ESA programmes from 2017-2021.

In its statement, the ESSC expresses strong appreciation for the future vision and extensive commitment demonstrated in the overall ESA strategy (‘Towards Space 4.0 for a United Space in Europe’), as outlined by ESA Director General Jan Wörner.

This far-sighted new strategy will promote a united and collaborative spirit across Europe which will foster European identity, energy and cohesion around the achievement of excellence in space sciences and technology. It also sets the scene for improved coordination between ESA and the European Union institutions, a position long advocated by the ESSC.

ESSC also welcomes the ESA Member States full subscription to the ExoMars programme which will allow for the continuing operation of the current Trace Gas Orbiter mission and the completion of the 2020 mission. This will undoubtedly produce new and exciting scientific findings which will be of long-term benefit to our overall understanding of the environment, atmosphere and geology of Mars.

While welcoming the broad thrust of the ESA’s Space 4.0 Vision, the ESSC expressed concern that decisions made on the Mandatory Science Programme budget will not allow for inflation compensation between 2017 and 2021, resulting in a loss in purchasing power over the period.

ESSC also said that the fifth phase of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme has been undersubscribed by approximately 18%. The Committee is very concerned at the potential impact of this undersubscription on the coherence and stability of the Earth Explorer programme.

The ESSC welcomed the International Space Station (ISS) extension to 2024 and the decision to support two long-duration ESA astronaut missions as proposed in the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). However, although the ISS exploitation part of the programme was almost fully supported, the ESSC strongly regrets that the E3P core scientific element (Science in Space Environment – SciSpacE) is undersubscribed by almost 50%. The resulting level of resource is therefore significantly lower than that of the previous phase.

ESSC Chair, Dr Athena Coustenis welcomed the overall high level of subscription to ESA programmes: “This is an acknowledgement of ESA Member States’ interest and willingness to invest in space science, technology and infrastructure. I urge Member States to recognise space sciences not as a cost but as a high-return investment with broad and exciting potential for European citizens and the economy.”

The ESSC was represented in the Ministerial Council by its Chair, Dr Athena Coustenis, and its Executive Scientific Secretary, Mr Nicolas Walter. The CEO of the European Science Foundation, the hosting organisation for the ESSC, Dr. Jean-Claude Worms, also attended.

The full statement can be downloaded:

Notes to Editor:

What is Space 4.0?

European Science Foundation (ESF):
ESF is an expert science services organisation that contributes to the European Research Area (ERA). It is building on core strengths developed over 42 years in peer review, evaluation and project management services. ESF hosts five Expert Boards, one of which is in the area of space sciences, that provide in-depth and focused scientific expertise in selected disciplines.

European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC)
The European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC), established in 1974, grew from the need to give European space scientists a voice in the space arena at a time when successive US space science missions and NASA’s Apollo missions dominated space research. More than 35 years later, the ESSC actively collaborates with the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission, national space agencies and the ESF Member Organisations. This has made ESSC a reference name in space sciences within Europe.

The mission of the ESSC today is to assemble an independent forum for scientists to discuss space science issues and provide advice to the different stakeholders. The ESSC is represented ex officio in all relevant ESA scientific advisory bodies, it has members in the EC space advisory structure, and it has observer status at the ESA Ministerial Council. At international level, ESSC maintains strong relationships with the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Space Studies Board.

The ESSC is the European Science Foundation’s (ESF) Expert Committee on space sciences and the ESF’s interface with the European space community.

Nicolas Walter
ESSC Executive Scientific Secretary
European Science Foundation
+33 (0)3 88 76 71 66