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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 15:06 GMT
Analysis: Europe's roadmap for space
By Helen Briggs
BBC News science reporter, Berlin

Delegates at the Esa ministerial meeting (Esa/S Corvaja)
Ministers gathered to decide the direction of Europe's space projects
After a day and a half of deliberations, ministers from the 17 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), and Canada, finally signed off the budget that will shape Europe's space efforts until the end of the decade.

As always, there were winners and losers among the raft of proposals Europe's scientists and engineers had pinned their hopes on.

EXOMARS

ExoMars rover (Esa)
The rover will search for possible Martian life, past or present

Member states were keen to subscribe to a key milestone in Esa's Aurora programme - a robotic mission to Mars planned for 2011.

The craft will land on the planet in 2013, releasing a rover designed to trundle across the Martian soil studying rocks and drilling beneath the surface.

Nations that signed up to the ExoMars mission - including the UK - will divide the work among them.

As yet, there are no parts of the craft earmarked for "made in Britain" stickers but the UK space sector is likely to play a key role in the landing technology and parts of the rover.

GMES

GMES satellite (Esa/Alcatel)
GMES is a key tool in understanding how the Earth's climate is changing

Closer to home, work will start on a new system to manage data from Earth monitoring satellites, a flagship cooperation with the European Union known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES).

Although member states stumped up the level of funding requested by Esa - 200m euros over three years - the UK will not be a major player, which came as a disappointment to British industry.

CRYOSAT

Cryosat (Esa/AOES Medialab)
The first attempt to launch the satellite ended in failure

The next phase of Esa's Earth observation programme, a series of missions to study the science of the Earth, also received majority support.

The UK said it attached high importance to the use of the funds to rebuild Cryosat, the ice-monitoring probe lost on launch from Russia in October - a view echoed by Germany.

A final decision on Cryosat 2 will not be taken before February when the costs of a replacement mission are determined.

LAUNCHERS

Artist's impression of Vega Rocket (ESA/J Huart)
Only way to fly: The Vega rocket

Agreement was also reached on proposals for Esa nations to use only European launchers for missions rather than having the option of buying a ride into space on other rockets.

The deal, dubbed "buy European", covers the Ariane 5, the newly developed Vega rocket which is set to launch next year, and Russian Soyuz rockets launched from Kourou.

SPACE BUDGET

Delegates at the Esa ministerial meeting (Esa/S Corvaja)
Esa officials called the budget negotiations a great success

Esa's requested budget for 2006-2010 was 8.8bn euros (5.9bn), a sum dwarfed by the $16bn (9.2bn) annual budget of the US space agency, Nasa.

Esa director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said they had achieved most of the expected budget, which he hailed as a great success.

"We have got 95% of the money that we were asking from the member states, globally speaking," he said at a news conference.

CLIPPER SPACECRAFT

Clipper spacecraft (Euronews)
The Clipper project faces an uncertain future

The main loser at the meeting was a plan to look into the feasibility of joining forces with Russia on its new crewed spaceship, the Clipper.

Although the move attracted support from a number of countries, there was not enough backing to make a final decision on the matter in Berlin.





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