Europe is at risk of falling behind in the global space race and losing key technologies, Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen said ahead of his second trip to space in August aboard Elon Musk’s next SpaceX mission.
Mogensen, who will be the first non-American pilot to fly the SpaceX Crew Dragon shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS), hopes to one day fly into space on an independent European mission.
The European Space Agency is currently only able to carry out European manned missions in space through international cooperation.
Western Europe, meanwhile, faces a space access gap for satellite launches after the Ukraine conflict cut off access to Russia’s Soyuz launch vehicle, Italy’s Vega-C encountered a launch failure and Europe’s upcoming Ariane 6 hit delays.
Ariane 5’s last European launch will take place next month
“I think it would certainly be a great benefit for Europe and the space industry in Europe if we were able to send European astronauts into space on a European spacecraft, I think the last year or so in particular has shown that there are some critical technologies that we need to master as a continent so that we’re not dependent on foreign countries that could then use our shortcomings to coerce us,” Mogensen said.
Sensitive technologies include secure communications, precision satellite navigation and Earth observation, including monitoring natural and man-made disasters.
In November last year, ESA asked its 22 member countries to support a 25% increase in space funding in an effort to remain a valued partner of the United States.
The United States is currently leading the “space race” with NASA’s budget growing as the White House in 2020 requested NASA’s largest budget in decades to reach the moon. Since then, NASA’s budget has increased annually, reaching $32 billion in budget resources in 2023, according to the government’s official spending website.