Representatives of the ten ESRO member states sign the new European Space Agency into being. ESA formally took over ESRO and ELDO operations on 31 May 1975.
Britain and France began to develop their own ballistic missile programmes well before the launch of Sputnik 1, and scientists and engineers on both sides saw the potential for turning these weapons into satellite launchers (see p.56), but it was soon clear that neither nation had the resources to pursue a major space programme on its own. The drive towards closer political cooperation in western Europe, however, meant that a Europe-wide space effort would be a natural progression.
The first sign of this new policy was the formation of the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) in 1964. France, Britain, and Germany were its leading players and contributed most of the budget, but there were seven other initial members - Italy,
Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, and Switzerland.
ESRO's main purpose was to coordinate European space policy and direct research efforts for the peaceful use of space. Over the next ten years, the organisation developed seven scientific satellites - four that studied the Earth's upper atmosphere and aurorae (the northern and southern lights), two that studied the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind, and an orbiting ultraviolet observatory.
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