Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Space chief hopes for 'Kennedy moment' from European leaders

  • 0

BERLIN (AP) — Josef Aschbacher recalls gazing at the night sky above his parents' Alpine farm when he was 7, trying to comprehend what he had just seen on the family's black-and-white TV set: the landing of NASA's Apollo 11 on the Moon.

More than half a century later, Aschbacher heads the European Space Agency, a formidable force when it comes to scientific exploration, telecoms and Earth observation. But so far, the agency is still unable to put its own astronauts into orbit, relying on Russia and the United States for crewed spaceflight and some other high-profile missions.

The 59-year-old aims to change that and hopes the recent turmoil caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine will jolt European leaders into action.

“I think the war in Ukraine has made politicians realize that we are a bit vulnerable and we have to make sure that we have our own secured access to space and our space infrastructure,” Aschbacher told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at Berlin's ILA air show.

Within days of the Russian attack on Feb. 24, the European Space Agency abandoned long-standing plans for a joint mission with Russia to land a rover on Mars.

“The ExoMars situation is a wake up call on how Europe needs to position itself," said Aschbacher. He recently held talks with NASA chief Bill Nelson to find a way of salvaging the mission without Russia, and is “very hopeful” the lander will make it to the red planet.

In the long term, however, Aschbacher said "it is clear that for critical components, for critical missions, we need to make sure that we can do it (ourselves).” Earlier this year he hinted that this could include crewed launches.

He praised a recent speech by Emmanuel Macron — delivered days before Russia invaded Ukraine — in which the French president called for a bolder European space policy.

“That was a bit of a Kennedy moment, but we need to hear this in other countries as well,” Aschbacher said, referring to U.S. President John F. Kennedy's speech in 1962 — at the height of the Cold War — detailing plans to land a man on the moon. “I would hope that the same Kennedy moment would happen in Germany and Italy, in the UK and Belgium and so on.”

Such ambition is also needed if Europe wants to capitalize on the growing space economy fueled by private ventures such as Elon Musk's SpaceX, he said.

European astronauts at the ILA show spoke of a change in tone when dealing with commercial companies that are focused more on the financial gains to be made in orbit than on the lofty ideals of international cooperation which underpinned collaboration between major space agencies.

“There is a huge growth predicted for the next years in space," said Aschbacher. “That’s why private companies are firing it up and investing in it. Europe has to be part of it.”

“If we don't increase our investment, we will be thrown out of this race,” he said.

With European nations now pumping billions into defense in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine, governments should keep in mind other areas in which their countries are dependent on others and therefore vulnerable, Aschbacher added.

“If there’s a war happening in front of our door, we need to be sure that you can get your phone working and you can get your navigation system working,” he said. “This is part of security in a wider sense.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

In a blow to the fight against climate change, the Supreme Court has limited how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. By a 6-3 vote Thursday, with conservatives in the majority, the court said that the Clean Air Act does not give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming. The decision, environmental advocates, dissenting liberal justices and President Joe Biden said, was a major step in the wrong direction at a time of increasing environmental damage attributable to climate change amid dire warnings about the future.

A shooting that left at least six people dead at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb rattled Monday's celebrations across the U.S. and further rocked a country already awash in turmoil over high court rulings on abortion and guns as well as hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, often makes the baseless allegation that Gov. Tom Wolf’s policy of readmitting COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes caused thousands of deaths. It's a claim for which no investigator or researcher has provided any evidence. In fact, researchers point to something entirely different. They say nursing home employees ushered in the virus every day to the buildings. Meanwhile, criminal investigators found administrators flouting staffing requirements or infection-control procedures. No Pennsylvania nursing home has leveled a claim like Mastriano's. And readmissions were routine in every state during the pandemic to keep hospital beds open. Wolf’s office says Mastriano’s claims are “patently false.”

A satellite the size of a microwave oven successfully broke free from its orbit around Earth and is headed toward the moon. It's the latest step in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface again. The Capstone satellite will take four months to reach the moon as it cruises along using minimal energy. Rocket Lab company founder Peter Beck told The Associated Press the experience of seeing the project come together and send the spacecraft on the way to the moon was “just absolutely epic.” The plan is for the satellite to orbit the moon in a stretched-out egg shape to save fuel and stay in contact with Earth. NASA eventually plans to put a space station in the same orbital path.

Wildlife biologists in Connecticut had to rescue a bear cub that got its head stuck in a plastic container. The misadventure happened June 23 when a mother bear with three cubs knocked over a garbage can in the town of Harwinton in Litchfield County, Connecticut. One of the cubs stuck its head in a clear plastic jar that had spilled out. Wildlife biologists waited for the cub to come down from a tree and then tranquilized it and removed the container. The bear was unhurt and quickly found its mother waiting nearby.

Los Angeles and Mumbai, India, are the world’s only megacities of 10 million-plus people where large felines breed, hunt and maintain territory within urban boundaries. Long-term studies in both cities have examined how the big cats prowl through their urban jungles and how people can best live alongside them. Scientists in India recently fitted five leopards with tracking collars to understand how they use territory around Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In Los Angeles, research showing how harmful a fragmented habitat and risks of inbreeding would be for mountain lions fueled support for building a wildlife crossing bridge over a busy freeway.

The Supreme Court decision Thursday to limit how the Environmental Protection Agency may regulate carbon dioxide emissions could make an already grave situation worse for those most affected by air pollution and climate change, community residents and advocates fear. Environmental and climate justice advocates from across the United States are calling on the EPA to find other ways to limit carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution and on Congress to grant the agency the authority to do so.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Recommended for you

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.



Breaking News

Breaking Sports News

News Alert