The battle for Britain leaving the European Union has proven to be a struggle and a half. But if you think that is bad then what about Europe itself? Since the European Union was formed there has been so much bureaucracy and monopolising of industry and commerce that it has been difficult for Europe to advance itself. I have been looking at ways in which Europe can function better not only without the EU but with less government and more freedom for science and enterprise. The only up is for Europe to look to the stars.
The European Space Agency (ESA) was founded by a group of scientists trying to advance space exploration through intergovernmental cooperation without the need for a big geopolitical bloc. As the space race progressed between the USA and the USSR in the 1960s some scientists in Europe realised that they were missing out on man’s greatest adventure. The trouble was that at the time there was little funding for space science that they could not compete internationally alone.
Most of the scientists in Europe travelled to the United States to work for NASA. In 1958 two scientists called Edoardo Almadi from Italy and Pierre Auger from France met to set up a meeting to lay the foundations for a common Western European space agency. The meeting was attended by representatives from 8 countries including British based Australian physicist Sir Harrie Massey, who would become it’s first chairman. In 1962 they set up two agencies called ELDO and ESRO, which later merged to form ESA in 1975 and started operating with 10 member states.
ESA’s structure works to a treaty laid down by it’s founders. It operates with a legislative body with each nation run by a scientist and a national science administrator of that country and the organisation itself is run by a director general elected by the council every four years. Then there is an executive arm that runs ESA’s scientific and technical operations which includes the science projects, space operations, international collaborations with other space agencies, private enterprise partnerships and other non-governmental activities.
I think ESA has done better progress for Europe scientifically than the EU has done politically and economically. In the time ESA has developed European interests in space and science it has helped to provide opportunities through international collaboration more effectively. By cutting out politics new discoveries have been made that enabled Europe to show it’s creativity shine in the sky. The EU’s draconian policies have to some extent stifled it’s member states ability to make science. But because ESA has no political control from the EU it can do business with America’s space agency NASA.
My favourite accomplishment from ESA is the Cassini – Huygens mission that reached Saturn in 2004. Europe had partly built that mission which consisted of the Huygens space probe. Huygens was investigating Saturn’s largest moon Titan and sent back data that revealed a planet like Earth in a primordial form. It has lakes of liquid methane, an organic compound capable of supporting life. Including a homogenous nitrogen atmosphere in a bright orange colour. This discovery really excited the world and thanks to ESA we made the first landing on an alien moon. Some British built components were also on that flight.
ESA can make Europe lead the world to a better tomorrow. To make Europe more prosperous it doesn’t need a big political union it needs more freedom and creativity to build and do better. ESA currently has 22 member states and has international partners in things that are more than just space science. The advantage of that is that when Britain leaves the EU it won’t be excluded from ESA’s work. We already contribute to their budget which totals at 5.72 billion euros.
On top of that we have one of ESA’s operations based in Harwell called ECSAT, Tim Peake is still a member of their astronaut corps, there are satellite and spacecraft building facilities across Britain. Britain even part builds Europe’s rocket the Ariane 5 and then later the Ariane 6. ESA is even working with NASA to send humans back to the Moon. America’s future spacecraft Orion has a propulsion module that will be built by ESA. I reckon in the future that will lead to a bargaining chip to allow British and other European astronauts to travel to the Moon.
That’s the beauty of science with small politics: dynamic nations and the preservation of peace through international cooperation.
ESA doesn’t do bloc trade agreements with other nations like the EU, it does Cooperation Agreements. These agreements are a mixture of mutual agreements with other countries and collaboration projects with other countries space agencies. Some of it’s member states have their own space programmes like the UK Space Agency, the French CNES and the Italian ASI. They have a lot less friction in their operations with each other and in their own countries coordinating space science activities. All without the need for a political organisation to run them and why would the need it.
At this moment space science is becoming very trendy and many countries are vying to try and get their own piece of the action. Space technology isn’t even a state funded adventure anymore, it’s now a public and private enterprise with more competition and exciting developments occurring everywhere. Like the Americans, European countries are also doing business with private sector space industrialists like SpaceX and Bigelowe Aerospace. ESA has got it’s own plans to build a lunar base, whereas the EU has got a plan to retract progress and bring every aspect of people’s imaginations under their control.