February 11, 2005

EU Constitution to Make Space Journey

BRUSSELS (AFP) -- The European Union's constitution will take off into orbit this spring for a visit to the International Space Station (ISS), the European Commission said.

"Traditionally astronauts bring something symbolic with them to the space station," commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said. "This time they asked to bring a copy of the European Constitution along."

Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori is due to carry the document with him when he blasts off for the ISS, from Kazakhstan on April 15.

"This will make it one of the world's most thoroughly tested constitutions -- not just politically but physically," Kreuzhuber quipped.

Despite the EU text's heady journey to the stars it has yet to be ratified here on earth. Popular referendums on the constitution are being held this year in many of the EU's 25 member states.

Guenter Verheugen, the commission's German vice-president, Friday in Brussels handed a copy of the constitution to French astronaut Michel Tognini of the European Astronaut Corps (EAC), who is due to pass it on to Tognini.

The handover took place at the start of Earth and Space Week, a week-long initiative by the commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) showing how earth observation and space flight improve the quality of life on earth.

The ISS, which orbits 250 miles (400 kilometers) above earth, is led by the United States and draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations including Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the ESA's 11 nations.


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