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European leaders should use a summit scheduled for 2022 to find out exactly how to compete in space with China and the United States, European Space Agency director-general Josef Aschbacher told POLITICO.
“The US and China will not stop investing in space, they have identified it as a strategic element,” said Aschbacher, emphasizing that Europe needs a clear investment plan for space projects that covers everything from developing reusable rocket launchers to Secure communications plans satellite network funded by the European Commission, along with possible new missions to the moon and mars.
“Europe has to recognize that we will be excluded from this race if we don’t invest,” said Aschbacher.
The agency plans to convene heads of state and government from its 22 member countries – many of which are also EU countries – to decide on a detailed policy response to growing investments in space projects from the US and China, he said.
Aschbacher said that without concerted new investment, Europe risked being left behind just as it was with internet technologies and artificial intelligence. “Europe has the know-how – clearly – but they missed the opportunity,” said Aschbacher. “I want politicians to understand that – and how much money is needed for it.”
Meanwhile, Aschbacher said nearly 10,000 people have already applied for ESA’s newest astronaut recruitment program, with the application deadline being Jan.