The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is now considering the possibility of joining the European Space Agency, Vísir reports. The ministry estimates it could take Iceland a decade or more to achieve full membership. The European Space Agency (ESA) believes Iceland would be a good partner for the organization, especially for projects pertaining to the Arctic.
Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, voted last year to have the minister for foreign affairs apply for membership to the agency on the country’s behalf. ESA Director General Jan Wörner met informally with representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs while on vacation in Iceland this summer. Representatives of the Icelandic government have subsequently exchanged letters and documents with the ESA to determine what the two entities could offer each other. “We now look forward to having formal communication,” Wörner stated.
In an interview with Vísir, Wörner expressed the agency’s interest in developing a closer relationship with Iceland. “For us Iceland is an interesting country for many reasons, especially because we are now active in the Arctic. Therefore, Iceland could be a very good partner for us. We are looking to build our relationship with Iceland.”
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated membership in the ESA would cost Iceland EUR 500,000 (ISK 61.4 million/USD 580,000), and the country’s annual contribution would likely be under EUR 1 million (ISK 123 million/USD 1.16 million).
Wörner believes Icelandic projects in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and physics can bring something to the table for the ESA, as well as vice versa. He also hopes the agency would inspire young Icelanders to learn more about space.
“We always need to try to inspire young people. Our experience is that space is very inspiring for youth. We are ready to provide Icelandic students with that inspiration,” Wörner stated.