The European Space Agency (ESA), was formed in 1975 and now consists of 20 European member states, with Canada as a partner, and exists in order to explore and utilise space for peaceful purposes on behalf of Europe. It employs 40,000 people directly, 250,000 indirectly, and has facilities all over Europe, with the Headquarters located in Paris. It is similar to NASA in America, although there are some crucial differences, most notably that it has much fewer funds at its disposal, and much more bureaucracy, since everything it does is the result of compromise between the fifteen nations involved. This results in many of the European members maintaining a national space agency as well, usually for smaller, less costly, space missions. The emphasis on 'peaceful purposes' is another obvious difference between ESA and some of the current American policies.

To date, ESA has been remarkably successful. It is involved in almost all the major areas of space technology (such as telecommunications, Earth observation, space science and the International Space Station), and has made groundbreaking and worthwhile contributions to each. These include the Giotto mission, which was the first satellite to take pictures of a comet's nucleus when it flew past Halley's comet in 1986, and then repeated the trick in 1992 with Grigg-Skjellerup.

There have also, of course, been some monumental European mistakes in space. One of the more famous is the failure of Ariane flight 501 (Ariane was actually made by the French space company Arianespace, but the payload of the launcher, the Cluster satellites, belonged to ESA). More recently, the Artemis telecommunications satellite was launched into the wrong orbit, although ESA managed (eventually) to correct this mistake.

There are plenty of missions planned for the near and long-term future, including missions to Mars, the Columbus laboratory for the ISS, and the environmental satellite Envisat, which should greatly improve the data we have on phenomena such as global warming, rising sea levels, deforestation and desertification.

The European Space Agency also has a manned spaceflight programme, which utilises the European Astronaut Corps.

Complete list of all ESA missions, past, present and future

With the recent success of the Philae spacecraft and its successful landing on a comet on November 12, 2014 I thought it might be interesting to look at the members of the organization and how much they contributed to the common cause in 2013. All figures are expressed in Euros

Austria

Austria was admitted to the ESA on December 30, 1986. They currently contribute approximately 50.1 million Euros which accounts for 1.6% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .034% of the countries government budget.

Belgium

Belgium joined the ESA on October 3rd, 1978. They currently contribute approximately 187.7 million Euros which accounts for 6.0% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .103% of the countries government budget.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic joined on November 12, 2008. They currently contribute approximately 13.7 million Euros which accounts for .4% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .036% of the countries government budget.

Denmark

The Danes signed up on September 15, 1977. They currently contribute approximately 25.7 million Euros which accounts for .8% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .03% of the countries government budget.

Finland

Finland joined the cause on January 1, 1995. They currently contribute approximately 19.5 million Euros which accounts for .6% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .02% of the countries government budget.

France

France made the scene on October 30, 1980. They currently contribute approximately 747.5 million Euros which accounts for 24% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .074% of the countries government budget.

Germany

Germany came onboard on July, 26, 1977. They currently contribute approximately 772.7 million Euros which accounts for 24% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .068% of the countries government budget.

Greece

Greece was admitted on March 9, 2005. They currently contribute approximately 15.1 million Euros which accounts for .5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .016% of the countries government budget.

Ireland

Ireland came along on December 10, 1980. They currently contribute approximately 17.3million Euros which accounts for .6% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .031% of the countries government budget.

Italy

The Italians made their presence known on February 20, 1978. They currently contribute approximately 400 million Euros which accounts for 12.9% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .053% of the countries government budget.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg was admitted on June 30, 2005. They currently contribute approximately 15 million Euros which accounts for .5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .082% of the countries government budget.

Netherlands

The Netherlands appeared on February 6, 1979. They currently contribute approximately 79.5 million Euros which accounts for 2.6% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .029% of the countries government budget.

Norway

Norway joined the race for space on December 30, 1986. They currently contribute approximately 56.3 million Euros which accounts for 1.8% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .027% of the countries government budget.

Poland

The Poles took to the stars on November 12, 2012. They currently contribute approximately 28.9 million Euros which accounts for .9% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .043% of the countries government budget.

Portugal

Portugal blasted off on November 14, 2000. They currently contribute approximately 16.1 million Euros which accounts for .5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .02% of the countries government budget.

Romania

Romania signed up on December 22, 2011. They currently contribute approximately 16 million Euros which accounts for .5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .037% of the countries government budget.

Spain

The Spaniards joined the cause on February 7, 1979. They currently contribute approximately 149.6 million Euros which accounts for 4.8% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .038% of the countries government budget.

Sweden

The Swedes took aim at the stars on April 6, 1976. They currently contribute approximately 75 million Euros which accounts for 2.4% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .037% of the countries government budget.

Switzerland

The Swiss went to the heavens on November 19, 1976. They currently contribute approximately 108.3 million Euros which accounts for 3.5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .068% of the countries government budget.

United Kingdom

The Brits took to the skies on March 28, 1978. They currently contribute approximately 300 million Euros which accounts for 9.6% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .042% of the countries government budget.

And then there’s Canada. While not a fully fledged member of the ESA, they are what’s known as an “Associated Member. Their association began on January 1st 1979 and they currently contribute approximately 15.5 million Euros which accounts for.5% of the overall total of all the member nations. That figure accounts for .008% of the countries government budget.

Some of you who are more inclined to math might be saying, “Hey wait a minute borgo, those numbers don’t add up to 100% when it comes to the percentage of the overall contributions” and you’d be right. The European Union as a whole joined on May 24, 2004 and emptied its pockets to the tune of 911.1 million Euros which accounts for 21.3% of the overall total.

The bottom line is, in 2013, the ESA had about 4.3 billion Euros to spend on space exploration and associated costs.

At the same time here in the States, in 2013 NASA had a budget of 16.9 billion dollars to spend on space exploration and associated costs which represented .49% of the federal budget.

If do some quick and dirty math and convert Euros to Dollars at about 1.25 per, that comes out to 5.375 billion dollars or about one-third of what the United States spends. Talk about your bang for the buck.

I guess that’s what happens when you try and go it alone.

Source(s)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Space_Agency#Mission_statement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA

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