Speech at Association Of Space Explorers XXVIII Planetary Congress

Stockholm Concert Hall, September 29, 2015.

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It’s an honour to be here with you all today. In Sweden, and probably in your countries, the media headlines are normally about politicians, movie stars, musicians, company leaders and other celebrities 

However, for a few weeks in 2006 and then again in 2009, all headlines were about a scientist, about Christer Fuglesang. This was when he twice visited the International Space Station.

It is quite rare to see a researcher being treated like a star - but that was the case when Christer returned to the earth and went on tours in Sweden.

Besides the obvious pleasure of meeting your colleagues, you are also on an important mission this week – to help spread the fascination of space to the public and especially to young people. Your visits to different schools are highly appreciated and will most definitely increase the students’ interest in science.

Only three weeks ago, a proposal for a national space strategy was handed over to me after more than one year’s work. I had the pleasure to present the work together with the investigator directly to the Prime Minister and several other government colleagues, companies and scientists - the National Innovation Board. They were very interested in how space can increase our knowledge and also improve conditions on earth.

The focus in this strategy is on having a holistic perspective on space activities in all sectors - not only space industry and research. It is important to ensure that the benefits for mankind - and for the societal needs and challenges are in focus.

We will soon ask other Swedish stakeholders for comments on this proposal. And I look forward to receiving these and to continue the discussion on how Sweden can strengthen its role in the global space community - and how to make the best use possible of space activities nationally and in international cooperation.

One thing that was recommended in the proposal was to develop the Swedish space base Esrange - situated above the Arctic circle – and it has a unique potential due to its isolated location and its space cluster. Esrange could be a European space port with capacity to launch small satellites into orbit, besides the existing European space port in French Guiana for heavier payloads. It is an interesting suggestion and we will consider it.

As we heard today, the space context is very international, and your presence here today is a proof of that. The International Space Station owns its success due to the international collaboration. The space can actually be seen as a successful peace project, and Sweden is dedicated to contribute to work in international organizations so that space will remain that way.

We just have one Earth, but up until now we have not been kind to it. Pollution, deforestation, over-fishing and other unsustainable activities have a severe toll on Earth, and the ongoing climate change is already causing changes in weather patterns and sea level rise. To understand what is happening and to be able to come up with efficient counter-measures, we need to monitor the development.

Earth observation satellites are crucial for this purpose. But also for tackling immediate crises like forest fires, flooding and other natural disasters. The Copernicus programme within the European Union and the European Space Agency will be vital for this monitoring - It shows the importance of international cooperation and long term planning and investments.

 

Every four years, The Swedish government drafts a National research and innovation strategy. We have recently started the work on the next one that will be ready next autumn. I see space as a driver for innovation, since the extreme conditions in space demand innovative and efficient solutions. Many of these innovations will be useful also on earth.

And we have many things around us in our daily life that actually stem from space applications and products.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to meet you.

I look forward to talking to you since I will be attending several parts of your programme this week. Your comments and advice on space issues and how Sweden can embrace it are appreciated. I encourage you to talk to my colleagues from my ministry since they will be around for most of today’s program.

A once again, I want to welcome to Stockholm, and may you have a fantastic week here!

Thank you very much!