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ESA showcases its space ambition at Farnborough airshow
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Jul 27, 2022

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ESA's efforts to ensure European citizens reap the benefits of space have been highlighted at a global aerospace event held in the UK.

ESA joined several of its institutional and commercial partners - including the UK Space Agency - at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.

The part of the airshow focused on space has continued to grow in recent editions of the event.

This year, it was attended by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and many other key members of the global space industry, who participated in several panel discussions covering a wide range of topics.

In the run up to the ESA Council of Ministers meeting in November, which will set the agency's priorities for the next three years, the excellent cooperation between the UK and ESA was an important theme.

With its unique set of scientific, technological and commercial capabilities, the UK is making vital contributions to the agency's programmes. In addition, ESA's plans for the next three years and beyond align well with the UK's national ambitions for space.

Turning space data into climate action
A key area of focus at Farnborough was the crucial role of space in the renewed global drive to tackle the climate crisis.

European Earth observation missions are delivering unprecedented insight into the long-term changes impacting the planet.

The UK is playing a leading role in several upcoming remote sensing missions, such as Biomass - which will provide crucial information about how the world's forests are changing - and Truths, which will support climate research by calibrating environmental data from other satellites.

The Forum mission - set to yield unique insight into the planet's radiation budget and how it is controlled - is also being developed with strong British contributions.

ESA's Climate Office - located at the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) in the UK - is the focal point for the agency's climate-related activities, coordinating the development of information that is enabling governments, businesses and communities to take action to cut planet-warming emissions.

Visitors to ESA's stand at the UK Space Pavilion in Farnborough's Space Zone were able to witness the impact of climate change through the eyes of Earth observing satellites, thanks to a web app called Climate from Space.

Space to expand connectivity
As well as helping to monitor the environment, ESA is using space-enabled connectivity to accelerate the transition to a decarbonised European economy.

From its ECSAT-based 5G/6G Hub, ESA is promoting the deployment of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks, enabling the development of sustainable applications across society, such as low-emissions autonomous vehicles, remote healthcare solutions and smart energy grids.

ESA's 5G activities were showcased as part of the agency's presence at the UK Space Pavilion.

The Moon and beyond
Space exploration was also an important topic at Farnborough.

During the event, it was announced that Italian aerospace firm Leonardo will continue the development of the Sample Transfer Arm, a 2.5 metre-long robotic arm that will pick up tubes filled with martian soil. This technology is crucial to the success of the Mars Sample Return Campaign.

With the first mission of the NASA-led Artemis programme expected to launch in the coming months, human exploration was also on the agenda.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission is the first in a series of increasingly complex expeditions that will enable a sustained human presence on the Moon, opening up new possibilities for exploration further into deep space.

With important contributions from the UK, ESA is advancing the development of technologies that will help to achieve this goal.

The agency is working with British industry to develop Lunar Pathfinder, a dedicated lunar communications relay spacecraft.

ESA is building on Lunar Pathfinder through its Moonlight initiative, which aims to put a constellation of satellites around the Moon to provide a shared communications and navigation service for future lunar missions.

Pioneers of the future
British ESA astronaut Tim Peake - who took part in a wide-ranging panel discussion to open the Space Zone - emphasized the importance of exploration for encouraging the next generation of scientists, engineers and space experts.

German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer attended the event to take part in a number of activities to inspire kids about space, including a session in which he took questions about life as an astronaut. He also presented awards to the winners of the UK Space Agency's Nanosat competition, which encourages young people to design a climate satellite.

On the final afternoon of the airshow, Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took part in an out-of-this-world video call from some 400 km above Earth's surface on board the International Space Station.

Samantha - who is currently partway through her Minerva mission - was introduced to a packed audience of more than 500 people at Farnborough by Matthias.

In a question-and-answer session, Samantha talked about what inspired her to become an astronaut, discussed her favourite things to do while in orbit, and even explained what space smells like.

The inflight call took place a day after Samantha completed her first spacewalk, which was also the first spacewalk conducted by a European woman. When speaking with the audience, she reflected on the tasks she performed and how it felt to venture outside the Space Station.

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