The European Space Agency(ESA), With 22 member states and its headquarters located in Paris, is known as the coordinating entity for European civilian space activities. It also has several centers that are scattered in several European countries. The Member states include Belgium, Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden. Also, Canada, The Czech Republic, and Hungary participate in selected programs of ESA as well. The member nations of the multinational Space Agency, are also participating with, the United States and other countries like Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia in the International Space Station(ISS) and have developed components for the same.
Now, since we have a hint about it, let's move on to what it is and what does the ESA actually do?
ESA, that is dedicated to the promotion, for purposes related to peace, and cooperation among European states in technology and space research frequently flies astronauts to the orbital complex and has remained a substantial contributor to the International Space Station as well. The ESA is said to have four major ESA facilities in other countries that include The European Space Operations Center (ESOC) at Darmstadt that is responsible for satellite control, data retrieval and monitoring. The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) at Noordwijk, that is known as the primary research center and is involved with the managing of satellite projects. The European Astronaut Center (EAC), Germany, that is responsible for the training of astronauts for space station missions as well as their selection and finally, The European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), located at Italy that manages the data obtained from remote sensing satellites and supports the ESA documentation service.
When we talk about their achievements, satellite programs and more in the same context, Additionally, ESA has numerous satellite programs that are designed to explore Earth as well as other planets where some of its very prominent missions include the Mars Express, which arrived at Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the year of 2014 and is in orbit around the Rosetta and the Red Planet and Its first satellite mission which looked at gamma-rays in space, being Cos-B. Adding on further, In the list of the Major ESA programs, the development of the Ariane and Vega rockets is counted in and is used for launching most of the ESA satellites from the Guiana Space Center at Sinnamary, French Guiana, and Kourou. Some of the very evident achievements of the ESA include the first European spacewalk with a U.S. spacesuit (Claude Nicollier,1999) and the first European to join an International Space Station crew (Thomas Reiter, 2006).
The space flight programme of ESA includes human spaceflight, the launch and operation of unmanned missions to other planets and the Moon, designing launch vehicles, the maintenance of a major spaceport, called the Guiana Space Centre that is nested at Kourou, Observation of the earth and also science and telecommunication. Among other ESA projects the Herschel Space Telescope, Planck have been on the list as well.
Talking of what ESA focuses on doing in the next few years, The ExoMars mission, which it is doing in partnership with Russia is on the cards. The first part of the mission, a satellite called the Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as a small test lander had lifted off successfully for Mars in the year 2016 but the follow-on rover that was expected to launch in 2018, due to scheduling problems slipped to 2020. Other very prominent missions that are on the list also include, LISA Pathfinder, which is testing technology in order to learn about gravitational waves, the James Webb Space Telescope by NASA that is expected to launch the next year in 2018 and also missions for Mercury (BepiColombo, 2018) and Jupiter (JUICE, 2022), and others that will seek dark matter (Euclid, 2020) and observe the energetic universe (Athena, 2028).
Official Link: ESA