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Towards a closer partnership with the European Space Agency

Posted on 11 December 2020

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European University Institute (EUI) have reaffirmed and strengthened their fruitful partnership with the signature of an amended contract on the deposit of ESA’s historical archives at the Historical Archives of the European Union by ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner and EUI President Renaud Dehousse.

For the past 30 years, the European Space Agency’s historical archives have been hosted at the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) in accordance with a deposit agreement signed between ESA and the European University Institute on 12 May 1989. To continue and deepen the fruitful archival cooperation, and to foster digital access to the historical archives of ESA, a Letter of Intent was signed on 2 May 2019 during an event at Villa Salviati within The State of the Union conference 2019. The Parties agreed to revise and amend the deposit contract of 1989 with a focus on digital access, data protection and information security.

ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner said: "Democracy needs a society that has access to real information, not "fake news". The work that we are doing together, which is to preserve and make accessible the history of our institutions, is a fundamental ingredient of "true information", and a contribution to our democratic Europe."

The amended deposit contract entails the establishment of three-year archival work programmes, as well as a dedicated archivist financed for a period of three years by ESA to treat and inventory its archival material.

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EUI President Renaud Dehousse with Dieter Schlenker, Director of the Historical Archives of the EU at the signing of the amended deposit contract with the ESA.

HAEU Director Dieter Schlenker said: “The scientific archival heritage of ESA, documenting Europe’s ambition for a common and peaceful space policy, is best preserved in the Historical Archives of the European Union along with the documents of EU institutions and the many voices of movements, associations and political groups for a united Europe.”

First steps towards a European space policy date back to the 1960s, when the predecessors of ESA were born; the European Preparatory Commission for Space Research (COPERS), the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) and the European Space Conference (ESC). A substantial reorganisation of the entire field led to the establishment of the European Space Agency in 1975.

The ESA archives preserved at the HAEU, therefore, includes also the archival heritage of its predecessor organisations and offers invaluable information on the origins of Europe’s activities in space, as well as the decisional and operational structures of ESA, and its international relations with member states and third countries.

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A scientist working on a light-weight rigid solar array (ESTEC). Photograph by H. Burer. 14 March 1973. Copyright: ESA 

Find out more about the historical archives of the European Space Agency.

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