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Esa plans civil security scheme in wake of Ukraine invasion

Image: ESA, European Commission

European Space Agency chief says programme could assess agricultural production and damage to infrastructure

The European Space Agency is planning to launch a new programme to monitor civil security from space following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Esa director general Josef Aschbacher told reporters at a press briefing in Paris on 13 April that preliminary ideas include assessing effects on agricultural production and damage to infrastructure. Assessing physical damage will be part of rebuilding Ukraine, he said.

“We would also like to work with our partners in Ukraine, in particular, to make sure that what we propose is needed and is best serving their purposes, and this will happen in the next couple of weeks,” Aschbacher said.

Last week, Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal said this year’s grain harvest in his country was likely to be 20 per cent lower than last year’s because of reduced sowing, news agency Reuters reported.

Aschbacher was speaking to the press after a meeting of Esa’s governing council, at which its member nations made decisions on what future programmes to pursue and how the agency should adapt its work in light of the collapse in its relations with Russia.

He announced that the council had approved a programme for establishing navigation and communication facilities around the moon, called Moonlight, and a programme to prepare space commercialisation activities, called Scale-up.

Aschbacher also said the council had decided to discontinue cooperation with Russia on Luna-25, -26 and -27 missions to put landers on the moon.

“The Russian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions put in place represent a fundamental change of circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned lunar cooperation,” Esa said in a statement.