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From space to sustainable development on Earth

on 15 October 2019

How is the European Space Agency (ESA) supporting a sustainable development? Space research, technology and exploration push the limits of human ingenuity and abilities, expanding the frontiers of possibility in everything from launchers and satellites to teamwork and international collaboration.

The hard-won knowledge that sends missions to far-off worlds and supports human life in orbit can, and must, make life better here on Earth as well.

ESA works to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) / as part of its commitment to improve life on Earth while making scientific and engineering breakthroughs in space. The SDGs address a wide variety of aims, from environmental sustainability to human rights and equality.

While there have always been spinoffs, applications and services arising as a result of all space programmes, in 2008 ESA kicked off the Space for Earth initiative to aid acceleration of these knowledge transfers and improve sharing of information.

The SDGs provide an opportunity to participate in a larger effort to fulfil crucial needs around the world, and many lend themselves well to ESA’s areas of expertise. For instance, the third SDG aims for health and well-being for everyone in the world.

ESA’s research on supporting astronauts’ health under extreme conditions provides a wealth of basic information on human health and its variability overall, as well as leading to the development of medical devices that are portable, compact and reliable.

Directly or indirectly, many of ESA’s other directorates also support this goal.

The Telecommunications and Integrated Applications directorate’s expertise in satellite communications supports projects to use telemedicine to reach remote areas of the world.

Navigation missions such as Galileo assist further by providing precise location data.

Earth observation yields information on hazards to human health from pollutants to humanitarian crises.

And the Technology, Engineering and Quality directorate ensures that ESA remains at the forefront of technological advancement, resulting in spin-off technologies that support human health.

To further explore how ESA supports the Sustainable Development Goals, take a look at the SDG site, where you can search by topic or browse by goal to find hundreds of ESA-supported projects that contribute to achieving the SDGs.

Image credit: RapidEye AG, DLR, Google Earth. Map produced by ZKI

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