David Cameron stated last week that he wants to triple the UK’s £9bn Space Industry. This statement might cause you to think that we’re about to embark on a trip to the moon or be involved in sending our own Space Rover to Mars.
In truth there are many investigative processes that are involved in the space industry and the idea of looking at the earth from the air dates back as far as 1794 and French Revolution, when balloonists carried out aerial survey work as part of their defence strategy.
One of the reasons so much money was available to the Space programmes of Russia and the USA from the 1950s onward, was their recognition of the value of intelligence gathering though satellites for defence purposes. By the 1960s weather satellites were in operation forming the basis of a now very sophisticated programme that provides weather details on a global scale.
Studying our Weather and Climate from Space
Since its formation in 1958, NASA has been studying our planet and its changing environment and as a result began formalised research in 1991 with the Earth Science Programme (latterly called the Earth-Sun Mission). This involved the launch of a number of satellites gathering information relating to our environment. One of these, Terra, gathers data on changes in atmospheric composition affecting air quality, weather, climate, and critical constituents such as ozone and aerosols, from 438 miles above the planet orbiting 14 times a day.
The data provided produces a global map of where and how much CO2 is drawn out of the air and fixed by photosynthesis. It also tracks plant growth. Other satellites monitor global ocean circulation allowing investigation of the tie between ocean and atmosphere which helps improve climate predictions of the earth’s ice sheets, clouds, wind speed and much more. This is where we now get much of our information on deforestation or melting polar ice caps which can be compared to archive material going back enough to allow visual comparisons of what is happening around the world.
- Better Climate Change Monitoring
- Polar Ice Monitoring
- Monitor Deforestation
- Track Weather Systems
Benefits of Space Exploration :
Meanwhile back on earth… whilst we may think of a Space programme as our attempts to find new and different worlds, it also provides valuable details about our own world and what 21st Century living is doing to it. This month world’s leaders, international policy makers and industry experts will gather to discuss renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology at The World Future Energy summit in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully this will lead to greater efforts in curbing the harmful greenhouse gases that are a major cause for concern.