Trick or treat
The Halloween Day on the International Space Station, 31 October, no one wanted to be an astronaut for Halloween.
How Space Technology can Provide the Change to Make Urban more Sustainable
Today – World Cities Day – offers a reminder that more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. With the number of people flooding to cities expected to rise over the coming decades, satellites and space technologies are an increasing vital source of information to help manage the issue of urbanisation.
Here is a fun exercise: during your commute to school or work, try to count how much of what you see has been impacted by space technologies.
You would probably have a hard time finishing before you reached your destination. Space technology is everywhere – whether it is making sure traffic flows smoothly, or improves your favourite commuting method, ESA's contributions have transformed the way we interact with our cities.
On World Cities Day we have a look at how space technology can provide the change needed to make urban centres more sustainable. Supporting the United Nation’s 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Sustainable Cities and Communities is vital not only because of the role cities play in our lives, but also because of its deep links with the other goals.
Access to accurate and up-to-date information is vital for formulating and implementing good policies. Our Earth observation (EO) missions and satellites, such as the recently launched Sentinel-5P, are a formidable tool.
Thanks to optical imaging, radar sensors and filters, satellites help monitor air quality and chart urbanization. This allows us to pinpoint the source of pollution problems, for example a dense traffic zone, and enables long-term and cost-efficient monitoring to observe trends, useful for tackling slum growth or terrain and building displacements (e.g. in San Francisco).
Satellites can also be used to improve connectivity in isolated communities (ECO; Ubisat), for e-governance, and can provide digital solutions for air monitoring, traffic management and coordinated recycling. ESA will also contribute to the implementation of future innovations, such as 5G, which will revolutionise digital interactivity, such as smart meters, in homes and on the street.
Other space applications are already seamlessly fitted into our cities. Innovations brought to life using ESA’s technology transfer programmes are adapted from space technology to make our urban centres more liveable. In Paris, some trains use space cooling technology to cut emissions and increase passenger space.
In Austria, space innovations are being implemented in fuel cells for inner-city delivery vehicles, allowing for more cargo space and eliminating both noise and pollution. Air conditioning, a big contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, is getting the "space treatment", where main-grid electricity is replaced with sunshine as their power source.
External partners like Eurisy, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank use their experience in dealing with policy-makers to bridge the technical gap needed to bring the Agency's projects to local communities. Beyond its business applications programmes, ESA's workshops and seminars, such as 'Space for Municipalities', contribute to educating stakeholders about the tools available to them.
International partnerships and capacity-building missions are especially important for cities in the developing world, which stand to benefit the most from the global, accurate and cost-effective coverage provided by space technology.