Greece is Ready for a Lift-Off
to Outer Space

by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

I had a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou shortly before he died. Andreas spoke mostly about Greece's outer space program. He told me privately as a young man he wanted to train to be an astronaut and to be Greece's first man on the moon but that was not to be but he described Greece's outer space program including the training of astronauts as a very modest program but one the Greek Government cooperating with NASA wanted to enlarge.

Andreas speculated what kind of dialogue Plato and Socrates would write if they were alive today.

Andreas in the many years I knew him had a kind of a hobby of imagining Greek headlines.

Can you see the headlines. "FIRST GREEK ON THE MOON" but that was not to be, but Andreas pointed out to me that Greece's outer space program today was actually more important than landing on the moon.

Actually Greece's interest in an outer space program dates back to the Greek philosopher Thales of MiIet 585 B.C.

He wrote about outer space and was the first to predict a solar eclipse.

Following is a progress report on Greece's outer space program:

Greek' scientists are joining other European experts in Preparing the European Space Agency's planned launch 2015 of a satellite expected to probe the innermost regions of the solar system.

A solar Orbiter will reach one-fifth the distance between the Earth to the sun in
order to collect ground breaking information data.

"We will reach a point that no one has reached before that sunlight is 25 times stronger than we feel it on earth" according to a professor of astrophysics at Athens University.

The Solar Orbiter Mission has attracted the interest and possibly the funding os US Space Agency NASA, which is planning to put four saterllites into orbit around the sun in 2015.

The cost of the mission exceeds 500 million euros so we are examining the possibility of a US-European cooperation.

According to experts the unmanned mission will make use of the latest technology, including intensive heat-proofing for all instruments and equipment such as telescopes that are 15 times more powerful than those used to date.

These instruments will help scientists investigate the dynamics of solar wind, the sun's magnetic field and the way in which all this affects the Earth and the satellites surrounding it.

Our planet is located within the sun's atmosphere and every second, the sun launches one billion tons of matter into this atmosphere.

So far Greece has provided 8 million Euros in funding to the ESA as compared to 10 million Euros from Belgium and other members.

According to the latest reports from the Greek government. Greece is interested in enlarging its financial contribution to the project and is looking forward to becoming an active partner with NASA in the worldwide outer space program.

(Posting date 5 February 2007)

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