Europe's space program says it needs more funding to stay competitive internationally. Just as several projects are starting to take off, private space companies pose a particular threat to the agency.
The European Space Agency (ESA) asked its 22 member states on Wednesday for more money in order to fund ambitious space projects that will help the agency to stay competitive globally.
Addressing member state ministers at a two-day conference in Seville, ESA Director-General Jan Wörner said he aims to increase the agency's budget by at least 10% over the next three years.
In 2019, the ESA had a total budget of €5.72 billion ($6.3 billion), about a third of its United States counterpart NASA's budget. The largest contribution of €5.72 billion came from France, followed by Germany's contribution of €927 million.
Wörner is a proponent of an ambitious space program that includes Earth observation missions and planetary defense enterprises. He also hopes to have European astronauts involved in a 2024 moon landing project organized by NASA.
Small steps, giant leaps
Europe has taken a more prominent role on the international space scene in recent years. The agency will begin using its new rocket launch vehicle Ariane 6 in 2020, and its Galileo satellite navigation system is also nearing completion.
However, increased competition from global players like China and the US, as well as private companies like Elon Musk's Space X, are a concern for the agency. Space X and other private initiatives are rapidly reducing the cost of space-related initiatives, providing fierce competition to ESA projects.
Ministers will use the time at the conference to discuss potential projects and make decisions about funding.
kp/se (AP, AFP, dpa)