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Sending a Polish astronaut into space not only accelerates scientific experiments but also boosts the national economy in the competitive race for space technology development, states Dr. Oskar Karczewski from the Polish Space Agency (POLSA).
While European Space Agency (ESA) member states face a three-year wait for experiments on the International Space Station, Poland’s increased ESA budget contribution of €295 million in 2023 aims to bypass the queue. POLSA’s collaboration with Axiom Space is set to launch Polish experiments, with astronaut Sławosz Uznański, in fall 2024.
Dr. Karczewski emphasizes the transformative role of science in technological development, treating space as a market ripe for innovation. With 150 Polish space tech firms actively participating in international tenders, the focus is on preparing the sector for competitive contributions to the expanding space industry.
Looking ahead, Karczewski envisions moon missions contributing to resource extraction, fostering technological advancements. The MIRORES project, a priority for POLSA, plans to map lunar resources, potentially unlocking new products and semi-finished goods.
In mid-2023, Poland signed agreements with Axiom Space and NASA, paving the way for Polish experiments on the International Space Station. A competition yielded 18 innovative proposals, addressing areas from biology to psychology, all aimed at preparing for extended space travel and human presence on the Moon.
Despite the significant cost to Polish taxpayers, Karczewski defends the investment, asserting that sending a Polish astronaut expedites scientific experiments and positions the country favorably in the race for new technologies. The alternative, joining a lengthy queue for experiments, is less viable given the current three-year waiting period for ESA member states.
While acknowledging the financial strain, Dr. Karczewski sees Poland’s substantial ESA contribution as an investment that will yield returns through contracts for the national industry. He hopes that future votes on ESA budget contributions will at least maintain the current funding level.