The Earth & Space Expo, part of Earth & Space Week, was officially opened on Friday, 11 February 2005, in Brussels. Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen was joined by Belgium’s Crown Prince Philippe, officials of the European Space Agency (ESA), the Luxembourg EU Presidency, the European astronaut corps.

“I am delighted to open this Earth & Space Expo,” said Verheugen. “For most of us, space means excitement, challenge and risk, but it is also an important tool. We take space for granted, but every day we use it, when we watch a news or weather report, when we watch a live football match. Space is also providing support for an incredible number of businesses, large and small. This exhibition is meant to inspire the public to dream and imagine, but it is also meant to stimulate policy-makers here in Brussels, to realise the full impact of space and Earth Observation (EO) on our quality of life and our industrial competitiveness.”

Representing the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU, Minister of Culture, Higher Education and Research François Biltgen said, “Europe already has a history of success in space exploration and technological development, but we also know that space is now a critical factor in our economic success. This event represents a giant step forward for Europe.”

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Volker Liebig said, “2005 will be a big year for European space activities: we have seen the Huygens probe land on Titan; we will see the new Ariane 5 launch tomorrow; in June we launch the CRYOSAT satellite, which will observe changes in the polar ice caps; and we will send two more European astronauts to the International Space Station. In addition, we will see the further development of Europe’s ‘Global Monitoring for Environment and Security’ (GMES) initiative. GMES is now seen as a model for the ‘Global Earth Observation System of Systems’, currently being developed with our global partners. Space is now a major strategic asset for Europe.”

An exciting show

The Earth & Space Expo is part of the joint EU-ESA Earth & Space Week, and includes a collection of exhibits, from genuine Space- and Earth observation-related tools, equipment and artefacts, to state-of-the-art audiovisual and interactive displays and demonstrations.

Visitors can get to know the planet, and the stars, and get a chance to speak, one-on-one, with experts on volcanoes and earthquakes, the polar ice caps and life in the oceans, and maybe even shake hands with an astronaut or two.

The Expo features:

  • Interactive exhibitions of Earth observation tools and applications and how they benefit our world.
  • Eumetsat and weather applications: the Weather link.
  • A display of current and future Space initiatives and a glimpse into how the nations of the world are working together to explore the universe.
  • An Earth & Space Classroom where young people can learn about our planet and beyond.
  • An Earth & Space Cultural Gallery featuring perspectives of our planet and universe from an artistic point of view.
  • A range of seminars, films and presentations designed to educate, inform and inspire.

The Expo is open from now until 20 February 2005, at the Autoworld Museum in Brussels’ Cinquantenaire Park. Entry is free.

Up close with the astronauts

EC Research Director-General and GEO Co-Chair, Achilleas Mitsos said, “For Europe to succeed in science and technology, we must seek to inspire our young people, and what better way to do so than through space?” With that, the winners of the Earth & Space Week ‘Flag for Planet Earth’ contest were announced. Participants included children in three age groups from all around Europe. Vice-President Verheugen, Liebig and Prince Philippe of Belgium presented the prizes.

Also in attendance at the opening were a selection of ESA astronauts, including Pedro Duque, André Kuipers and Belgium’s own Frank de Winne, who mingled with guests and signed autographs.

The EU Constitution prepares to take off!

The ceremony ended with Vice -President Verheugen presenting a copy of the new European Constitution to the European astronaut corps. “This document,” he explained, “will travel into space with our next European astronaut.” The next human mission for ESA will see a European astronaut traveling to the International Space Station aboard the first American shuttle to fly since the Columbia disaster.

More information:

Earth & Space Week website Earth & Space Expo webpage