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European Space Agency: Majority say Ireland’s contribution should not increase beyond €20m

Polling carried out by Ireland Thinks found that just 11% of the public think the contribution should be increased.

SOME 40% OF people say Ireland’s annual contribution of €20 million to the European Space Agency (ESA) should decrease, according to a new opinion poll.

The Journal’s Good Information Project has been discussing Ireland and the EU’s role in space exploration, so teamed up with Ireland Thinks to explore this issue with a representative panel of the public. 

Ireland Thinks asked the public what direction they think Ireland’s annual contribution to the ESA should go in. Our current contribution stands at around €20 million per year.

Around 37% of those surveyed believe the contribution should stay the same, while 40% of people said the amount should be reduced. Just 11% of the public think the contribution should be increased, and 13% were uncertain.

When broken down by political party, Sinn Féin supporters had the highest percentage advocating for a decrease in our annual contribution at 47%, followed by ‘other parties’ (39%), Fianna Fáil (31%) and Fine Gael (31%).

In the five decades since Ireland became a member of the European Space Agency, it has contributed to a wide range of research projects and been awarded countless commercial contracts worth millions – benefiting both our educational and commercial space sectors.

The ESA operates on a pro-rata basis, meaning the more money nations put in the greater number of lucrative contracts they can be awarded. A decrease in funding would probably mean fewer opportunities for Irish industry and academics. The ESA’s budget for this year is €6.49 billion, with Ireland’s contribution making up just 1% of that.

Contributions from larger member states are much greater – such as Germany (21.3%), Italy (13%), France (23.4%).

We also asked the public what they think the ESA’s top priority should be to which a majority of 53% said monitoring key parts of the earth’s climate system.

The European agency’s Climate Change Initiative uses experts in a range of scientific, technical and development specialisations from across the European Earth observation community to support research and development.  The ESA has also formed a strategic partnership with NASA to ensure that data from Earth-observing satellites are used to their “best advantage” in the response to climate change.

The US and European space agencies have already worked together on environmental issues, notably on the Copernicus Sentinel-6 programme in which satellites about the size and shape of a large minivan measure sea-level rise. The two agencies said the COP26 climate conference this November will provide a chance “to further make space an integral part of the solution when it comes to climate change mitigation.”

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Meanwhile, 21% of people said the main focus of the agency should be on the development of new technologies, while 14% said it should the monitoring of asteroids and other objects that could hit Earth. 

There also wasn’t much of an appetite for human space flight amongst those surveyed, with 3% of the view that sending astronauts to Mars, the Moon, or beyond should be top of the ESA’s agenda. Some 10% of respondents said they were unsure.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

About the author:

Adam Daly

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