Senior management at ESA have had great difficulty in improving morale at the agency. Since 1995 the group has lost 19 percent of its staff, and morale fell so low during 1996 that over 50 percent of them signed a petition of no confidence in ESA's management.

In an effort to involve staff in discussions about policy and boost morale Daniel Sacotte, ESA's director of administration, has started to conduct internal opinion polls. The latest data - collected at the end of November and due to be published in two weeks - suggest that staff welcome the policies introduced by the new secretary general, Antonio Rodotà. In particular, Rodotà has promised to combat expected budget cuts by working more closely with the aerospace industry.

A task force has already recommended that industry pays the majority of costs in applied programmes, such as Earth observation, and that future programmes should be driven by users, not technology. Industry reaction so far seems positive. A similar scheme is expected in any agreement between ESA and the military.