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'''ESA''', the '''European Space Agency''', was formed in 1975 by the merger of two previous European spaceflight organizations, [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Launcher_Development_Organisation ELDO]] and [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESRO ESRO]]. Nowadays, it has 20 member states and consists of the national space organizations of said member countries and of a few central institutions. While long cooperating with the [[UsefulNotes/TheEuropeanUnion European Union]], it is actually ''not'' a subset or branch of said organization, though it reflects the ideals of European integration and international cooperation in a very similar way (this is part of the reason why several members of ESA are not members of the EU).

In the pre-ESA days, the space initiatives of European countries used spaceports based in Europe, east Africa and Australia. Since the 1970s, Kourou in French Guiana had been chosen as the site of the main European spaceport. After ESA formed in 1975, it inherited the spaceport ("Guiana Space Centre") and co-administers it with the French government and the launch vehicle providers.

Despite a history of setbacks and lower budgets than those available to the Americans and Russians, ESA has enjoyed successes with its many ambitious space probe missions (''Giotto'', ''Mars Express'', ''Venus Express'', ''Rossetta'', etc.), the ''Ariane'' and ''Vega'' series of launch vehicles, the orbital laboratories ''Spacelab'' (flown aboard NASA's Space Shuttle) and ''Columbus'' (part of the ISS), as well as the man-rated ATV resupply spacecraft. In a recent MomentOfAwesome for ESA, UsefulNotes/{{NASA}} has [[http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/ESA_workhorse_to_power_NASA_s_Orion_spacecraft struck a deal]] with it about providing a licensed version of the ATV's propulsion module for the MPCV ''Orion'' manned spacecraft.

[[http://www.esa.int/ESA Official website of the agency]]

[[http://www.youtube.com/user/ESA Official YouTube channel of the agency]]

[[https://www.facebook.com/EuropeanSpaceAgency Official Facebook site of the agency]]

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!!Tropes about ESA :
* CashCowFranchise: Ariane, sort of... The early days of the Ariane series of rockets were rough and uncertain, but ever since the Ariane 4 established itself as a dependable commercial launcher in the late 80s and early 90s, the Ariane series became one of the most profitable commercial launch vehicles around. The Ariane 5, while [[WhatCouldHaveBeen originally developed for more grandiose purposes]] and being somewhat pricier to construct, has taken on Ariane 4's mantel with great success and launches clusters of multiple commercial and scientific satellites on a regular basis. The currently in development Ariane 6 is planned as a mid-range supplement to the heavier Ariane 5, as well as the lighter Vega. Nowadays, there are also concerns about the Ariane launchers being able to stay competitive with newly rising spaceflight companies, such as UsefulNotes/{{SpaceX}}. (As a small tip, you can watch Ariane launches live or on archived videos at [[http://www.cnes.fr/web/CNES-en/10082-follow-ariane-launch-live.php this website]].)
* CharacterBlog: The comet-chasing space probe ''Rosetta'' has an in-character [[https://twitter.com/ESA_Rosetta Twitter account]]. The trope is averted in her [[http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/ main mission blog]], though.
* CoolShip: The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_Transfer_Vehicle ATV]] automatic resupply spacecraft. Especially given its track record, technical capabilities and UsefulNotes/{{NASA}} expressing interest in its service module (for use on their currently developed MPCV Orion capsule). A blog dedicated to the ATV project can be found [[http://blogs.esa.int/atv/about/ here]]. You can also find out more about the vehicle from [[http://esamultimedia.esa.int/multimedia/publications/ATV_brochure_EN/offline/download.pdf this]] handy little booklet in .pdf format.
* LightningBruiser: The general reputation of the Ariane 5 among current heavy launch vehicles.
* TheFederation / MultinationalTeam : Unlike UsefulNotes/{{NASA}}, UsefulNotes/{{JAXA}}, [[UsefulNotes/{{Russia}} RKA]], [[UsefulNotes/{{China}} CNSA]] or [[UsefulNotes/{{India}} ISRO]], ESA is not a single national space agency, but more like a space agency of space agencies - an international organization tightly incorporating the national space agencies or space research bureaus [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Space_Agency#Member_states_and_budget of its European member states]]. Even non-European countries the likes of Canada, Israel and Turkey also have close cooperation agreements with ESA.
* FriendlyRivalry: Originally quite pronounced, both with the Americans and Russians. Due to the effects of TheGreatPoliticsMessUp and SocietyMarchesOn in the recent two decades, this trope has by-and-large made way for increasingly mutual cooperation between all three space agencies.
* InterplanetaryVoyage: So far, most of the agency's spacecraft haven't ventured too far out of the inner Solar System. However, the involvement of ESA in ambitious space probe missions has only been continually increasing over the years.
* NoBudget: Actually a rather large budget, of 4 billion euros, it is still small fry compared to that of NASA. The head of the ''Beagle'' team remarked, when ''Curiosity'' touched down on Mars, that he found the images of the large NASA control room quite touching, since ''Beagle'''s control room had been three men in a cupboard. Unlike NASA, however, the ESA's budget had steadily increased since it's inception, so this trope is averted these days.
* PintsizedPowerhouse: The new ''Vega'' class of lighter, more inexpensive rockets was developed precisely because ESA was in need of a commercial and scientific satellite launcher that wouldn't be as demanding as the Ariane 5. While the ''Ariane'' series has a high quality and succesful pedigree, it is often too overpowered or overengineered for many simpler, less demanding missions.
* ScienceHero: It was kind of ESA's [[PlanetOfHats hat]] in the eyes of other space agencies, especially during its earlier history, when it was far more dependent on others in terms of launch capabilities. The stereotype went that ESA is just a lazy freeloader who can't do any flights on his own, yet is obssesed with making experiments and astronomical surveys in Earth orbit, etc. Though the stereotype has died down in the last two decades thanks to increasing advances towards a fully European launch/spaceflight capability and ESA's [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_contribution_to_the_International_Space_Station contributions to the ISS]], ESA is still often seen as a "astronomy and research first, spaceflight tech second" space agency. In fairness, the slower pace of the technology developments was and is mainly due to the international character of the agency and the smaller budgets it has for such things when compared with the Americans or the Russians.
* TheSpaceRace: Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Edoardo Amaldi, one of the founders of ESA's predecessor organizations, argued that it would be unwise in the face of the successes of the US and USSR to not develop a domestic European launch capability, for both scientific and economic purposes.
* SpiritualSuccessor: ESA is one to ELDO and ESRO. The ''Ariane'' series of rockets is this to the 1960s ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_%28rocket%29 Europa]]'' launch vehicle programme. (The ''Europa'' launchers themselves were successors to the collected working launch vehicles of the 1960s British, French and German space programmes, e.g. the ''Blue Streak'', ''Diamant'', etc.)
* ThemeNaming: ESA sure loves this trope ! Observe...
** FunWithAcronyms
*** The research satellite [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART-1 SMART-1]] ('''S'''mall '''M'''issions for '''A'''dvanced '''R'''esearch in '''T'''echnology-'''1''').
*** The solar research probe [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_and_Heliospheric_Observatory SOHO]] (Reference to London or simply the '''So'''lar and '''H'''eliospheric '''O'''bservatory ? You be the judge !).
*** The research satellite [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PROBA PROBA]] ('''Pr'''oject for '''O'''n-'''B'''oard '''A'''utonomy).
*** The research satellite [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Retrievable_Carrier EURECA]] ('''Eu'''ropean '''Re'''trievable '''Ca'''rrier).
*** The proposed space probe [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDA_%28spacecraft%29 AIDA]] (Yes, a [[PunnyName punny reference to]] the [[Music/GiuseppeVerdi Verdi]] [[{{Aida}} opera]], otherwise meaning '''A'''steroid '''I'''mpact & '''D'''eflection '''A'''ssessment).
*** The gamma ray research satellite [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INTEGRAL INTEGRAL]] ('''INTE'''rnational '''G'''amma-'''R'''ay '''A'''strophysics '''L'''aboratory).
*** The newer and smaller cousin of the ''Canadarm2'' on the ISS is the '''E'''uropean '''R'''obotic '''A'''rm - [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Robotic_Arm ERA]].
*** The planned space telescope [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHEOPS_%28spacecraft%29 CHEOPS]] ('''CH'''aracterising '''E'''x'''OP'''lanets '''S'''atellite).
*** Probably the king of this trope when it comes to ESA : The recently announced space probe [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Icy_Moons_Explorer JUICE]] ('''Ju'''piter '''Ic'''y Moons '''E'''xplorer).
** ReligiousAndMythologicalThemeNaming
*** The ''Ariane'' series of launch vehicles gets its name from [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariadne Ariadne]] (from the Greek myth about Theseus and the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Crete). "Ariane" is a French rendering of the name Ariadne. The ''Ariane'' series' predecessor, the ''Europa'' class of launch vehicles, was a double reference - to the continent of Europe itself and to the mythological female character the continent was named after, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_%28mythology%29 Europa]].
*** The joint NASA/ESA space probe ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_%28spacecraft%29 Ulysses]]'' was, obviously, named after the protagonist of Homer's ''Literature/TheOdyssey'' (in this case, the Latin rendering of Odysseus' name).
*** The 1980s/1990s telecommunications satellite ''Olympus-1'', referencing Mount Olympus.
** LiteraryAllusionTitle
*** The proposed ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quijote_%28spacecraft%29 Don Quijote]]'' space probe, for testing forced impacts into asteroids that could be used to deflect said space objects. The probe consists of a separate, orbiting, "onlooker" section dubbed ''Sancho'', and an impactor section, ''Hidalgo''. Given the names and roles, you probably know what famous scene from [[Literature/DonQuixote Cervantes' novel]] is being referred to...
** StellarName
*** The recently introduced smaller and lighter launch vehicle ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega_%28rocket%29 Vega]]'', named after the famous bright [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega star]].
** NamedAfterSomebodyFamous
*** The cometary probe ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto_%28spacecraft%29 Giotto]]'', named after the Italian [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto_di_Bondone Renaissance painter and architect]]. It was [[UnderdogsNeverLose the only probe out of a competing group of five]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YwrcZVM1MA to fly closely]] to Halley's Comet in 1986 and examine it from a fairly close distance. An early MomentOfAwesome for ESA.
*** The ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_%28spacecraft%29 Planck]]'' space observatory, named in tribute of Nobel Prize winning German physicist and father of quantum physics theory, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck Max Planck]].
*** The ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Space_Observatory Herschel]]'' infrared space telescope. Named after [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Herschel Sir William Herschel]], of course.
*** A subversion of this is the ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XMM-Newton XMM-Newton]]'' space observatory. While it's obvious [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton who the second half of the name refers to]], the acronym XMM stands for "'''X'''-ray '''M'''ulti-Mirror '''M'''ission". [[AcronymAndAbbreviationOverload Phew.]]
*** Another unusual rendering of a "named after a personality" spacecraft name is the proposed ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MarcoPolo-R MarcoPolo-R]]'' space probe. XtremeKoolLetterz, [[RunningGag anyone ?]] Who knows what the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_Polo medieval Venetian explorer]] would think about it all...
*** The ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huygens_probe Huygens]]'' landing module of UsefulNotes/{{NASA}}'s Saturn-observing ''Cassini'' space probe. Named after Dutch astronomer [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiaan_Huygens Christiaan Huygens]], it was the first ever (and so far only) spacecraft to land on UsefulNotes/{{Saturn}}'s moon [[UsefulNotes/TheMoonsOfSaturn Titan]] and briefly explore it. The naming is rather appropriate, since Huygens the astronomer discovered Titan and did a lot of early astronomic work concerning Saturn and its environs.
*** The main European module of the ISS is the ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_%28ISS_module%29 Columbus]]'', named after ChristopherColumbus.
*** As a sadder, WhatCouldHaveBeen example, the original concept for the otherwise succesful cometary exploration probe ''Rosetta'' was a bit more ambitious than the finished product. The original probe's name ? Appropriately enough, ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champollion_%28spacecraft%29 Champolion]]'', after [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Champollion the French linguist]] who deciphered the Rosetta Stone. Both the name of the unrealized earlier concept and that of the eventually launched mission were supposed to reflect that comets are a kind of "cosmic Rosetta Stone", capable of revealing interesting data about the evolution and composition of our Solar System.
*** The planned ESA [[{{Crossover}} and]] UsefulNotes/{{JAXA}} probe mission to Mercury, ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BepiColombo BepiColombo]]''. Don't let the cute-sounding name fool you. Its namesake was Italian engineer [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Colombo Giuseppe Colombo]], known among his pals and colleaugues as "[[AffectionateNickname Bepi]]". Colombo's main claim to fame was the invention of the gravity-assist maneuver, a staple of space probe missions and practical astronautics since the 1960s. He also served as a scientific consultant for NASA's ''Mariner 10'' mission and ESA's aforementioned ''Giotto'' mission.
*** Each of the five ATV resupply spacecraft is named after a European visionary, usually scientists :
**** ''Creator/JulesVerne'' (2008) - The ship even carried an original 19th century copy of the author's novel ''Literature/FromTheEarthToTheMoon'' aboard during its flight.
**** ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kepler Johannes Kepler]]'' (2011)
**** ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edoardo_Amaldi Edoardo Amaldi]]'' (2012)
**** ''AlbertEinstein'' (2013)
**** ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre Georges Lemaître]]'' (2014)
** ShoutOutThemeNaming
*** As already mentioned above, the name of the ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_%28spacecraft%29 Rosetta]]'' space probe that conducted a comet-exploratory mission is a nod to the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Stone Rosetta Stone]], a stele from Antiquity that was instrumental in the first deciphiring of Egyptian hieroglyphics back in the 19th century.
*** ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beagle_2 Beagle 2]]'', the [[WhatCouldHaveBeen ultimately unsuccesful]] British-built lander of the ''Mars Express'' probe, was named in honour of the ship ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Beagle HMS Beagle]]'', which CharlesDarwin used for his exploratory voyages in the 1820s and 1830s. The ''2'' in the lander's name refers to the notion that it was [[LegacyCharacter the second British scientific "ship" in history to bear the name]] ''Beagle''.
** Some ESA projects even show overlaps between styles of theme naming. Two examples out of many :
*** [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO_%28spacecraft%29 PLATO]], a proposed exoplanet-hunting space observatory who's name references [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato the eponymous ancient Greek philosopher]], [[FunWithAcronyms but also means]] "'''PLA'''netary '''T'''ransits and '''O'''scillations of stars".
*** The older ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipparcos Hipparchos]]'' astrometry satellite is both [[NamedAfterSomebodyFamous a reference to]] the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipparchus ancient Greek philosopher Hipparchus]] and [[OverlyLongGag an overly long]] [[FunWithAcronyms acronym for]] "'''Hi'''gh '''p'''recision '''p'''arallax '''co'''llecting '''s'''atellite". And you thought [[Series/DoctorWho the Doctor]]'s TARDIS has a rather convoluted acronym...
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Sadly, ESA has had far too many spacecraft projects that didn't come to fruition, especially during a technology development slump it experienced in TheEighties. The most famous of these unrealized projects were various smaller manned vehicles, including the ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_%28spacecraft%29 Hermes]]'' space shuttle (to be launched by the Ariane 5 rocket) and various simple capsule shuttles for flights to and from the ISS. Several interesting space probe missions got canned too, though most of them avoided this fate and only got downscaled, usually losing a formerly planned specialized sub-probe in the process.
* XtremeKoolLetterz: The [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate_eXperimental_Vehicle IXV]] ('''I'''ntermediate E'''X'''perimental '''V'''ehicle), a testbed demonstrator for future unmanned spaceplane developments. To be launched in late 2014, atop a ''Vega'' rocket, for its first orbital test flight.

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!!ESA in the media and in fiction :
* Frequently appears in the news on ''WebVideo/SciShow''.
* A series of short, storybook-style cartoons about Rosetta and Philae, made by Coconut Science Lab for ESA. [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lptDXWyxj0&list=PLgx5PMpgonqUD1aO3g0bZ_a7VKg8VGTeS Watch them here]]. The cartoon counterparts of the probe and its lander are the very definition of {{adorkable}}. Their "grandfather" Giotto also makes an appearance in a flashback to 1986 in one of the later episodes, where it's also revealed that he himself is the NarratorAllAlong. Other famous cometary probes also make cameo appearances in the flashback.
* One of the main participating parties in the "grand tour" mission of ''SpaceOdysseyVoyageToThePlanets'' is ESA. The other participants are UsefulNotes/{{NASA}}, [[UsefulNotes/{{Russia}} RKA]] and [[CanadaEh CSA]].
* The freeware ''VideoGame/{{Orbiter}}'' spaceflight simulator has a lot of [[http://www.orbithangar.com/search.php addons]] dealing with real, cancelled and fictional ESA projects, including various launch vehicles and unmanned and manned spacecraft. There's even a [[http://www.orbiterfrancophone.com/index.php?disp=home separate website]] dedicated to the ESA-themed (or European-themed) addons and mods. Are you sad that ESA never built the ''Hermes'' space shuttle or doesn't have a lunar base yet ? With [[http://www.orbiterfrancophone.com/index.php?disp=addons&id=40 the appropriate]] [[http://www.orbiterfrancophone.com/index.php?disp=addons&id=7 addons]] installed, [[WishFulfillment you can now]] [[AlternateHistory remedy that]] !
* [[{{Supermarionation}} Gerry and Sylvia Anderson]]'s 1969 live-action film ''Doppelgänger'' offers a pre-ESA example of a European space agency, from a late 1960s point of view. It's called EUROSEC ('''EURO'''pean '''S'''pace '''E'''xploration '''C'''ouncil) and its manned spacecraft include the SSTO ''Phoenix'' and the {{spaceplane}} ''Dove''. Interestingly enough, since the Guiana Spaceport hadn't been chosen yet back then, the makers of the film surmised that a European space initiative [[{{Zeerust}} might be launching its future spacecraft from a spaceport in southern Portugal]]. This isn't as kooky as it sounds, since it would be in one of the parts in Europe that are closest to the equator, which is a favourable location for most launches.
* The ATV appears briefly on a table among various spacecraft models in ''Film/TransformersDarkOfTheMoon''.
* Regrettably, in the 2007 ''Film/{{Transformers}}'' movie, the Beagle 2 lander [[http://transformers.wikia.com/wiki/Beagle_2_Rover is presented as]] ''[[WeAllLiveInAmerica an American]]'' probe, created by UsefulNotes/{{NASA}}. Worse yet, it's outward appearance is ''[[TheyJustDidntCare completely different]]'', more like that of the ''[[CriticalResearchFailure Spirit]]'' [[CriticalResearchFailure and]] ''[[CriticalResearchFailure Opportunity]]'' [[CriticalResearchFailure rovers]]. According to the film, the Decepticons were probably behind the probe's infamous malfunction, but it's kept rather vague.
* The [[WhatDoYouMeanItWasntMadeOnDrugs weird]] mid-1980s sci-fi horror film ''Film/{{Lifeforce}}'' includes a "European Space Shuttle", presumably operated by ESA or its fictional equivalent. Oddly enough, that spacecraft [[ArtisticLicenseAstronomy visits Halley's Comet]], [[ArtisticLicensePhysics of all places]]... The film came to theaters about a year before the RealLife ''Giotto'' probe visited the same comet.