The joint ESA/UNESCO Open Initiative to conserve hundreds of natural and cultural World Heritage sites using Earth observation satellites gets additional backing as the International Astronautical Federation joins the growing number of space entities to pledge support to the project.
The Open Initiative, agreed upon by ESA and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 2001, involves satellites monitoring UNESCO World Heritage sites as unique and varied as the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China in order to provide early warnings of conditions that could threaten them, such as natural catastrophes, atmospheric contamination and changes in land use. The signing of the partnership between the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and UNESCO took place today at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. ESAs Stephen Briggs, Head of Earth Observation Science and Applications Department, opened the ceremony with his thoughts on how Earth-observing satellites have benefited humanity.
Paying tribute to the first man in space in 1961, Briggs quoted Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarins first words spoken there: "I see Earth. Its so beautiful. Indeed, observing Earth from space has truly revolutionised the way we view our home planet. With their unique global perspective, satellite systems offer incomparable advantages to help us better understand, manage and protect the Earths precious environment."
"The extraordinary cultural and natural diversity of the world is an important source of life and inspiration for humanity. Its preservation should be a responsibility shared by the whole international community," he added.
The name Open Initiative was chosen by ESA and UNESCO because they intended to have other space agencies join the partnership, and in 2003, when the initiative was formally launched, they called on others to participate.