Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has signed a degree, which will begin the accession negotiations between Poland and the European Space Agency (ESA). Depending on the results of these negotiations, Poland might become the 20th ESA member as soon as late 2012 or beginning of 2013.
Poland has been a member of PECS – Plan For European Cooperating State – since 2008, already starting its first stage of integration with the European space industry. The PECS funds available for Poland reached a level of 20 million PLN (about 5 million EUR). These funds will significantly rise once Poland joins ESA as a full member.
Poland has a long, although little known, history in space research. The first Polish cosmonaut, Miroslaw Hermaszewski, flew to space in 1978 representing the fourth nation on orbit. Instruments designed or fabricated in Poland flew onboard over seventy unmanned missions, such as Huygens lander, Rosetta Philae lander or Herschel space telescope. More recently, Polish students won the University Rover Challenge 2011 competition with the MAGMA2 rover. Soon the first Polish satellite (PW-Sat) will be launched on the maiden Vega rocket flight. Still, these achievements can be considered as a small ones and for last several years various groups have lobbied for the full ESA membership.
The accession of Poland to ESA is seen as a unique opportunity to develop a high-tech industry and participate in various projects on a much higher level than currently ongoing. It is important to note here that all major political parties support the accession to the ESA, which allowed the Prime Minister to make this important decision.