Astronauts, DLR and the UN discuss Space and Sustainable Development

Yesterday, UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) alongside other UN agencies located in Bonn discussed with 80 astronauts about how space technologies can contribute to sustainable development and the environment.

Two key note presentations and a panel comprised of astronauts and UN experts emphasized that Space-based information allow for detailed insights into the development on our planet for example regarding climate change, land degradation, biodiversity or natural hazards. The experts pointed out how we can track and monitor sea level rise, glacier melting, land use and land cover changes, urban development, disaster impacts or deforestation. Experts from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained how satellite data can help track land degradation, routes of migratory species and health issues. UNCCD's Mansour N'Diaye pointed out: "Unless we cannot reliably monitor changes to our planet, we cannot manage sustainable development."

Juan Carlos Villagran de Leon of UN-SPIDER emphasized the importance of satellite data for disaster risk management and emergency response. He pointed out: "Space applications offer us global views on global challenges. The importance of these data is also explicitly addressed in the Rio +20 document The future we want." Dr. Gerd Gruppe, member of the DLR board, added: "Satellite-based Earth Observation helps us to better understand the environment that we live in. It is one of the many space applications that we use every day: Navigation for our mountain bike tours, satellite transmissions for our TV programme or crisis maps for disaster managers."

German astronaut Dr. Gerhard Thiele explained why it is so important that we protect our planet: "There are two things that keep surprising me and that are keeping me confident when remembering my space flight. One is this light blue, next-to-nothing thin layer, our atmosphere. The second one is the realisation how much humankind can achieve by broadly cooperating - that is, if we want to." American astronaut Mario Runko also underlined how fragile our planet is: "The Earth is a pretty small place comparatively. Believe me, I've seen it."

The event was taking place under the umbrella of the 26th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers, a biennial event, that brought together 80 of the 400 members of the Association this year in Germany themed "Citizen of Space - Stewart of Earth". The discussions on Space and sustainable development were followed by presentations on the future of the International Space Station and human space flights from DLR, Astrium, Sierra Nevada and CASIS.

More photos are available on UN-SPIDER's Facebook Page.