European Space Agency adopts environmental research programme

Ministers of the Member States of the European Space Agency approved major new programmes at a meeting in Brussels this week, including the first phase of the "Living Planet" long-term environmental research programme.

“The agreement to embark on the Living Planet Programme is the first step towards providing an assured long-term programme of research which looks at the Earth and its environment from space. We are putting Earth sciences on a more equal footing with ESA’s traditional strengths in scientific research,” said Chairman and UK space minister, Lord Sainsbury.

The £400 million Living Planet programme is intended to help scientists to understand and predict the Earth’s environment and humankind’s effects upon it. For example, it will monitor the effect of global warming on the polar ice caps and measure soil moisture and other factors that are essential to the accurate modelling of climate systems.

The programme will fund space missions to look back at, and study, the earth. These missions will generate unique global measurements of physical, chemical and biological processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces.

These measurements will enable European scientists to gain a better understanding of crucial environmental issues such as global warming, ozone depletion and tropospheric pollution. The missions will therefore play a key role in helping European Governments to manage and improve the Earth’s fragile environment.

UK scientists will exploit the results from the Living Planet programme through complementary research supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.

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