Since the days of Sputnik and Apollo, Space technology has matured to an extent that it is almost a routine commercial activity. China, India and Japan are well established players in addition to USA and Russia. Next year the Virgin Galactic will embark on space tourism. Since its establishment in 1975, the European Space Agency ( ESA) has come a long way. The original 10 founding member countries have now grown to 17 with a broad mission to “Explore Space”. All member countries are European as you would expect – except one. With the same disregard for geography that allows Israel to join the Eurovision song contest, Canada also plays a part in ESA.
ESA has many projects active or in the pipeline and last month initiated an astronauts recruiting program. You have to be from one of the 17 member countries and you can even apply online. David Southwood is the ESA Director of Science. The following conversation with him was recorded at the Space conference.