At the end of this year, we should finally be able to benefit from the first commercial services associated with Galileo. In spite of a seven-year delay to the initial schedule, it has been worth the effort. So, let's briefly remind ourselves of the benefits of the plan to create a European satellite radio navigation system.
At the moment, we are over-reliant on the US global positioning system (GPS). That dependence creates, first of all, a problem of a strategic nature, since we do not have control of the satellites on which our foreign and security policy is based. As with energy and digital matters, Europe's access to space must not be dependent on the goodwill of third-party countries. Space is indissociable from our sovereignty - so let's not leave it to others. Let’s stop being subjected to the three 'Gs': GPS, Gazprom and Google.
Moreover, the quality of the current system leaves something to be desired, particularly regarding the accuracy of the signal. The data gathered by satellite radio navigation systems has nevertheless become increasingly precious in a large number of areas, especially in transport. On a daily basis, it increases travel safety, facilitates traffic flow, and reduces congestion and its impact on the environment.
"Europe's access to space must not be dependent on the goodwill of third-party countries. Space is indissociable from our sovereignty – so let’s not leave it to others"
With the deployment of the European geostationary navigation overlay service (EGNOS), which improves upon GPS positioning (three metres instead of 17 metres), noticeable progress has been achieved. In maritime transport, for example, this system allows ships to be guided through narrow channels or the exploitation of the halieutic resources off our coasts. In the aviation sector, EGNOS provides assistance for mountain rescue or the landing of large planes at medium-sized airports.
Galileo and its even more precise signal offers us new opportunities - promoting the development of multimodal transport, guiding tractors to increase the yield of harvests or even developing services to help elderly or disabled people, for example, people suffering from Alzheimer’s who go missing.
The exploitation of space has once again been in the limelight thanks to the resounding success of the Rosetta mission. Let's not quell the terrific enthusiasm sparked by Philae. It is a long-term effort: Rosetta is the embodiment of 10 years' work. A suitable, sufficient budgetary programme over the long term is, therefore, necessary. New research based on the exploitation of space is costly and requires a critical mass which we can only achieve on a European level. We must encourage the pooling of resources and the development of commercial applications to stimulate research which will benefit all Europeans.
Let’s not forget all the industry and services directly connected with space and with the possibility of geolocation, these are worth tens of billions of euros per year. Europe must retain its leadership in this field; it is a question of competitiveness and of preserving our jobs. Furthermore, it is estimated that just the deploying of Galileo could ultimately generate 20,000 jobs and 2000 permanent jobs, and this is without taking applications into account.
In 2015 episode VII of Star Wars will hit the screens, but let’s leave the fiction to Hollywood, while we win the real star wars.