ESA To Make Estonia 21st Member State

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The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to welcome Estonia as its 21st member Feb. 4, when Anne Sulling, minister of foreign trade and entrepreneurship, signs an accession agreement with the Paris-based space agency.

Estonia spends several hundred million euros annually on space activities, including new financing for national R&D activities decided last year and a contribution to European meteorological organization Eumetsat.

The country has strong research facilities, particularly in the areas of astronomy and astrophysics, with the Observatory of Tartu and the Universities of Tartu and Tallinn.

As part of the accession process, Sulling and a delegation of institutional and industrial representatives visited the Toulouse space center with French space agency CNES Feb. 2. The group saw the FIMOC (Martian rover control room), the SONC, which guided Rosetta's Philae lander to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and the ATV control room.

Estonia spent €330 million ($373 million) on space activities in 2009, and has been contributing about €1.2 million per year to the ESA budget as part of a cooperation contract signed in 2010. A dozen Estonia-related space development projects have been initiated since then. Tallinn also supports European space as a member of Eumetsat, a contributor to the EU Common Space development project, and to Europe's Copernicus environmental and monitoring and security system.

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