A travelling exhibition is showcasing the many ways space applications are improving life on Earth. Opening in Copenhagen, the European Space Expo will tour Europe over the two years.
From weather forecasts to broadcasting and from in-car navigation to search-and-rescue, space technology has already transformed our lives in just a few years. The European Space Expo, which opened in Copenhagen on June 1, reveals just how much of satellites and other space applications are making a difference for us, and how much more they can do.
The exhibition held 1 – 4 June on the Christianborg Slotsplats, in front of the Christiansborg Palace where the Danish Parliament sits, gives visitors an insight into the wide range of satellite applications currently available, with a focus on those provided by EU satellite navigation and Earth observation programmes."
A range of interactive displays allows visitors to see space’s wide range of innovative technologies and services. The exhibition will travel across Europe over the next two years will stop in 2012 in Toulouse (coinciding with the June 25-28 Toulouse Space Show), Helsinki (August 17-21), Brussels (September 25-30), Vienna (October 22-26 coinciding with the ITS World event), Larnaca, Cyrpus (at the November 10-16 Second FP7 Space Conference) and London (December 1-6, coinciding with the December 3-5 European Space Solutions conference).
Many space-powered applications and services
The exhibition shows how applications and services based on space technologies are currently used to improve transport, boost farming and fisheries, protect the environment, and bolster security.
The show explains that as well as impacting everyday life, these applications represent opportunities for business, job creation and economic growth. The market for global satellite navigation applications expected to reach €240 billion by 2020, with about 7% of gross domestic product – equal to €800 million in Europe – reliant on satellite navigation services.
The European space manufacturing industry is worth €5.4 billion per year and employs more than 31,000 people. That is expected to grow as global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) develop further. The European GNSS Agency (GSA), which manages and monitors Europe’s satellite programmes, aims to regulate the sector while fostering satellite innovation.
Galileo on the way
The Space Expo was inaugurated by Diego Canga Fano, the Head of Cabinet for European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani. “Space policy is going well,” he said after cutting the ribbon to formally open the exhibition. “We now have two Galileo satellites in space, we’ll have two more in September, and two more every four months. We’ll have 18 in space by 2014.”
Canga Fano gave two examples of how space applications – in particular, the technology offered by Galileo – will help in everyday life. One example is with the blind, who can use satellite devices to guide them on the street. “We have 10 million visually impaired people in Europe,” he said. “These devices will help them better navigate outside and avoid potential hazards.
The second one is Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), the European programme of Earth observation to support, among other things, emergency management, including natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Canga Fano pointed to the recent earthquakes in Italy, and how GNES applications were helping civil authorities in their relief efforts. “The message in a nutshell, is that although space offers very important economic opportunities, citizens can really appreciate their applications in areas like the environment, health, and civil services,” he said.
Climate, traffic and mapping
Lars Prahm, Director General of the Danish Meteorological Institute, underlined how satellites had changed his own job over the years. “Daily weather forecasts have improved thanks to space technology. We can now look several days ahead with our forecasts, compared with a few days in 1980s,” he said.
Among the other applications showcased at the Space Expo include the GMES climate change systems that can monitor greenhouse gases, the ozone layer and other climactic developments. They can measure sea levels, and sea temperatures, check sea surface salinity, observe ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, show ice levels over time, and monitor deforestation.
In the road transport sector, satellite navigation can help not only find routes for drivers, but ease congestion by organising traffic flows, set up virtual road toll systems and generally make driving cleaner, faster, safer, and smarter. In health, they can detect pollen levels, and monitor pollution (recently helping officials dealing with the oil spills from the January 2012 Costa Concordia accident).
In mapping, they can chart farmland, forests and infrastructure, accurately setting chart boundaries, helping with underground works like water mains and train tunnels, and even help archaeologists find where artefacts and buried features are.