"European citizens strongly support investment in space to improve life on Earth and there is a growing appetite for greater space ambition in Europe. As world leaders gather for the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), European citizens want to see space used even more to monitor and mitigate climate change. We must act now to increase Europe's autonomy, leadership and responsibility in space," said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher on Tuesday 15 November.
The survey is not insignificant: its results are being revealed before the meeting of European ministers, whose countries are members of ESA, to discuss the next budgetary framework. The ESA president is aiming for €18bn for the next three years, 25% more than the already record figure of €14.4bn set in Seville in 2018.
More than 21,000 people living in the 22 ESA member countries - including 490 Luxembourgers - responded to the survey conducted by Toluna and Harris Interactive. Three main findings emerged.
1. Space to better combat global warming
86% of respondents would like space to be used to better identify the causes and effects of global warming and 84% would like it to be used simply to better understand the environment in which we live.
This is followed by prioritising the protection of space (82%), improving transport on Earth (80%) and improving communications on Earth (77%).
2. More cooperation to deal with the Russians and Americans
For 82% of Europeans surveyed, greater collaboration between Europeans should enable the continent to be better placed in the competition with the Americans, Russians, and even the Chinese or Brazilians.
The Spanish (87%), ahead of the French and the British (83%), are the ones who hope for this most. The Italians (84%) see it as the best way to free themselves from the other space powers.
3. Debris first, then the Moon and Mars
The survey was unique in that, for the first time, it asked about the interest of European space activities in cleaning up debris in orbit... And this interest was directly ranked first, by 84% of respondents.
This ranked before organising a robotic exploration mission to Mars (77%), putting astronauts on the Moon (71%) and sending astronauts to Mars (70%). But "the importance of space exploration has increased significantly in people's minds since the 2019 survey. Support for robotic exploration of Mars has increased by 18 percentage points among respondents in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, while support for astronauts on the Moon and Mars has increased by 18 and 16 percentage points, respectively," ESA notes.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.