Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of ESRO ©ESA
Our first anniversary and 60 years of European cooperation in space
Thu, 25/01/2024 - 09:24

Today we are celebrating the first anniversary of this website! We take a quick look back for a review of 2023 and recap of the material and collections that are currently available online in our SHIP database (and how you can best search them). Much of this material is related to the first years of formal European space organisations, which leads us to another anniversary that we are marking in 2024 - for 60 years of European cooperation in space.

2023 achievements

The ESA Archives exist to preserve our institutional memory and decision-making, and to promote and exploit Europe’s technical and scientific legacy in space. This website facilitates this work, as a tool for exploring the stories of Europe in space and as the public gateway to the resources available online. Throughout 2023 we have been busy creating and opening new material: here are just a few of the highlights from our first year of activity:

  • Regular bi-monthly news from the Archives talking about our holdings and about new collections of material, celebrating anniversaries, personalities and events, publicising grants, and exploring issues that affect archives
  • Opening of six document collections in the SHIP database, including historical ESA publications, communications material and graphics (stickers)
  • Opening of three new years of historical photos in SHIP (1974-1976)
  • 12 objects of the month from the Archives, ranging from model launchers to printing plates, and covering VIP visits to music inspired by satellites
  • An A-Z space glossary covering the first three decades of European space personalities, projects and organisations
  • A space timeline for European space activities from 1959 to 1994

Explore 60 years of Europe in space in SHIP

2024 marks 60 years of European cooperation in space with the creation of the first European space organisations – ELDO (the European Launcher Development Organisation) and ESRO (the European Space Research Organisation) – in 1964. These forerunners of ESA were merged after just over a decade, in 1975, to form today’s European Space Agency.

To date, our digitisation work on the ECSR’s historical picture collections has largely focused on these beginnings. The approach adopted was to start with the earliest pictures, dating back to 1964, and to work forward from there. Currently,  around 5000 photographs from 1964 to 1977, covering the ELDO/ESRO years and the first years of ESA, are available in SHIP, with new years being added every few months. (1977 has just been added!) For each year the photographs selected for digitisation span engineering and space projects, administrative activities and everyday life (or special events) in the ELDO/ESRO or ESA establishments across Europe. The photograph above, for example, was taken at the celebrations for the first ten years of ESRO in 1974.

The SHIP database also contains document collections, and our focus for these has been on making a selection of ESA’s historical publications available in high resolution and as downloads.  Some of these follow our concentration on the early years (for example, the material on ESRO and ELDO communications: 1964-1975) where others introduce more topical material, such as the collection of On Station newsletters (produced from the 1990s by ESA’s then Directorate of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity) opened for the 40th anniversary of the first Spacelab flight in November 2023.

Start or deepen your research

Our Archives highlights page contains a complete list of the collections that are open in SHIP – each collection has its own page detailing its contents and the search terms you can use in SHIP to browse material. For example, to see copies of ESA Brochures you should search for ‘brochures’.

But your searches in SHIP are by no means limited to these collections. If you see a particular event while scrolling though our space timeline, or are interested in a satellite project that you read about in our space glossary, you can follow up with a search in SHIP to discover the digital holdings related to it.

To make sure you are using SHIP to its full potential, you might also like to check these links to guides and further information:

How to search and credit
SHIP functionalities (including downloads, annotations, interoperability)
SHIP user manual

Connect with us

We are always interested in hearing from readers with your comments or suggestions – either on this website or on the material and collections available in the SHIP database. You can write to us at Archive.Services@esa.int or get in touch through the ESA History feeds on Facebook and X.

Also, don’t forget that if you spot faces, events or places that you recognise in the historical photographs in SHIP, you can leave us an annotation with the missing details!