ESA – Boosting Earth science

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24/10/2022
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With science at the core of the Earth Observation FutureEO programme, ESA has opened a new scientific facility, the Science Hub, which offers new opportunities for collaborative research to further boost the Agency’s and its Member States scientific output.

Harnessing novel ideas and concepts to forge pioneering satellite missions and maximise the impact of Earth observation for society, FutureEO is ESA’s Earth observation research and development programme. This world-leading programme yields scientific excellence and the undisputable facts to understand our changing world – in essence, FutureEO is the cornerstone of ESA’s activities in Earth observation.

Responding to today’s challenges including the impact of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, the health of our oceans, the availability of water, extreme events and geohazards along with efforts towards decarbonising  Europe all rely on the backing of robust science. By returning critical data to understand the planet and predict what lies in store, satellites such as the Earth Explorers – FutureEO’s bold research missions – are fundamental to advancing  science and, ultimately to restore environmental balance for a sustainable future.

Focusing on Earth system science, the new Science Hub offers a centre for scientific cooperation with ESA’s Member States. It fosters open science, maximises the scientific impacts of the family of Earth Explorers and the Copernicus Sentinel missions, enhances the scientific outputs of FutureEO, and advances the scientific basis of Digital Twin Earth.

The new Science Hub, which is located at ESA’s centre for Earth Observation near Rome in Italy, is a space to bring people together, a place to nurture networking and collaboration after all the challenges of recent years.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Simonetta Cheli, said, “ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level is taking place in November and we have developed an ambitious set of programmes where science is of prime importance.

“Science is the key to unlocking the mysteries of how our planet works as a system and to predicting what is in store as human activities continue to upend Earth’s natural balance.

“In order to exploit our scientific yield even further, we need closer collaboration with academia and closer links with scientists from a wide range of disciplines – and our new Science Hub will help achieve this.”

The Hub has already begun being staffed by a number of research fellows and visiting scientists.

Sonia Ponce de Leon, from the University of Lisbon, said “As an oceanographer, my goal is to provide to the science community with an assessment of renewable energy from ocean waves in coastal zones.

“I am using altimetry data from satellite missions such as CryoSat, Copernicus Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-6 and processing it with a special algorithm to yield accurate and high-resolution data near the coasts.

My stay in the Hub allows me to meet scientists and satellite altimetry experts and gives me the opportunity of forging new networks and collaborations.”

Marco Bellacicco a visiting scientist from the Institute of Marine Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy, said, “Joining the Science Hub has given me the opportunity to be in a prestigious and formative work environment, where is possible to receive new inputs from other top scientists. This scientific vision and multidisciplinary approach along with novel and advanced techniques are the necessary tools for a better understanding the ocean productivity, functioning and evolution in relation to ongoing climate change.”

ESA’s Diego Fernandez added, “The Science Hub will also be a focal point for advancing the science that will underpin future applications and the development of a digital twin of Earth – an advanced dynamic, digital replica of our planet that will change the way we study Earth’s behaviour, design novel solutions, and assess their potential impact on the environment.

“As part of our FutureEO programme, we have started to open opportunities for scientists in ESA Member States to join the Science Hub and help us to address some of the most pressing scientific challenges of our decade.”

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