BERLIN (AP) — Europe needs a bolder space policy, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, warning that Europe’s sovereignty is at stake if it falls behind rival powers in a key area for technology, science and military competitiveness.
Speaking at a meeting in Toulouse, France, Macron said recent events had shown how crucial it was to be able to monitor troop movements from orbit – a reference to satellite images showing military deployment mass of Russia near Ukraine which raises fears of an imminent invasion.
“There is no full power or autonomy without the management of space,” Macron said. “Without (her), you cannot conquer new frontiers or even control your own.”
Europe has a strong track record in launching satellites for telecommunications, global positioning services and scientific research. But it has fallen behind rivals such as the United States, Russia and China in human spaceflight, lacking the ability to launch its own crewed missions.
The head of the European Space Agency backed calls last month to develop its own crewed spacecraft, although member states have yet to approve.
Macron said Europe needed to ask itself whether it wanted to continue down this path and, if so, what the goal should be. One option would be to follow the United States in targeting Mars, while another would be to focus on a replacement for the aging International Space Station.
With hundreds of thousands of jobs linked to the space industry, Macron warned that Europe faces fierce competition not only from major powers, but also from emerging rivals such as India and companies. private companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX.
“Unfortunately they are not European, but they took a gamble,” he said, adding that the companies had received significant public funding in the form of government-sponsored launches. Macron said Europe should also consider this option for its local launchers like the next Ariane 6.