Interview with Christian Feichtinger

Christian Feichtinger, the Head of the European Space Agency mission in Russia commented for Russia Today on  broad co-operation between Europe and Russian in space exploration.

Russia Today: We've heard about several joint projects between Russian and European space agencies. Could you tell us about the main ones?

Christian Feichtinger: Let me say that for the European Space Agency Russia has always been a strategic partner and the relations between the ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, are excellent. It is due to the invitation by the Head of the Roscosmos that we  participate here again during the MAKS this year. And it was already seventh time this year that our Director General,  and the Director General of Roscosmos, met here at MAKS-2007 on Tuesday this week, and discussed actually the status of all our joint projects. And when we went to all our projects we saw that about 80% of all the missions which ESA is going to undertake within the next two to two-and-a-half years, are somehow connected and interrelated with Russia and Russian corporations. Just to mention a few, in September we will have a launch of the Russian capsule Foton, and three European capsules from Baikonur with big European payloads on board. We will see the launch of this GLWB satellite at the end of this year from Baikonur on board of a  Russian rocket. We will see the European cargo transport vehicle ATV take off the Kourou cosmodrome in January next year, and it will dock to the Russian side of the International Space Station. We will have two launches of Earth observation satellites on Russian Rokot rockets next year from Plesetsk. And finally we are looking forward to the the first launch of the Russian Soyuz launcher from the European cosmodrome in Kourou, in the first half of 2009.

RT: Another interesting venture between ESA and Russia is project Mars-500. When will it start and what roles will Russia and Europe play in it?

C.F.: Well, the European Space Agency has received an invitation by Roscosmos and the  Institute of Biomedical problems of the Russian Academy of Science to participate in this very interesting experiment. It has to be said that ESA has been already a partner in previous isolation studies. And it was very interesting for us to take this invitation up and we will participate substantially in this interesting experiment with European volunteers, two out of the six-man crew will be Europeans, and the European Space Agency has opened an announcement for the opportunity, and is at the moment collecting applications from volunteers, but we also have a very interesting and complex European scientific programme to be performed during the Mars-500 isolation study.

RT: The Russian Space Agency announced its plans for the Kliper spaceship which should replace Soyuz. But some say the project won't be fulfilled in the near future. When do you think it'll be ready?

C.F.: The European Space Agency has been working now for several months already together with Roscosmos in order to discuss potential co-operation of a next generation crew transportation vehicle. In June last year, the ESA Council meeting has given the green light for ESA to enter into a preparatory phase of a crew transportation system project, which has the aim to jointly define with Roscosmos and Russian and European industries a programme of a crew transportation vehicle. All this is tuned to our next ministerial conference. That is a big conference where all the ministers of all the ESA member-states will meet in November next year, and that is the place where usually we are proposing new programmes to be voted by our member-states and what we are doing now is trying to set up, in co-operation with Roscosmos and Russian industry, an interesting programme proposal which will satisfy the interests of Europe as well as of Russia.