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Europe pledges billions

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The European Space Agency and Innovation minister Lord Drayson have signed an agreement to build a research centre at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

The centre will focus on space robots and innovative power sources including development of ExoMars - a robotic probe which will search for life on Mars. It will also model climate change using data from space.

European ministers and one from Canada have just ended a two-day conference and pledged €10bn space budget, as well as agreeing on a strategy.

Galileo, the European GPS service, keeps its funding, as do plans for "exploitation and evolution of the International Space Station [and] on-board research in life and physical sciences". There is also money in the pot for a feasibility study for a returnable vehicle.

Peter Hinze, head of the German delegation, told the Beeb he thought the money would help Europe "leave the economic crisis and to gain new economic strength".

The budget is slightly more than ESA asked for.

According to the BBC, ESA director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain said: "It demonstrates that the member states, number one, believe in what space can do for the citizens; number two, they believe in Esa as a successful organisation; and number three, that in a period of economic crisis, this is the right time to invest into the future."

Funding was also secured to maintain the costs of Europe's spaceport in French Guiana. ®

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