9-13 Sept (2013) ESA’s Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh


622px-Francisque_Millet_-_mountain_landscape_with_lightningESA’s Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh

9-13 September 2013

Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Image added by Dr Stuart: Jean-Francois Millet Mountain Landscape with Lightning (1675)

Regularly updated details at the website here.

Organised and hosted by ESA with the support of the UK Space Agency, the event brings together more than 1500 scientists and users from across the globe to present their latest findings on Earth’s environment and climate.

The versatility of Europe’s Earth Explorer missions will be the main focus. The three missions in orbit are CryoSat, GOCE and SMOS. Over the past few years they have been providing new information on Earth’s cryosphere; gravity and soil moisture; and ocean salinity, respectively, but there have also been several achievements that surpassed the original scope of these missions.

While CryoSat continues to measure the thickness and extent of sea ice and continental ice sheets, it has also proven capable of profiling land surfaces and inland water targets, monitoring sea-level changes and even contributing to the mapping of ocean floor topography.

Earth’s gravity mission, GOCE, has gathered enough data to map Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision. Scientists further exploited these data to map the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle – called the Moho. GOCE also detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011.

The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite, SMOS, has been helping us to understand the water cycle. But the mission is also being used to monitor Arctic sea-ice extent and thickness, and can even determine wind speeds inside hurricanes.

The next Earth Explorer, Swarm, is planned for launch later this year. The three-satellite constellation aims to unravel one of the most mysterious aspects of our planet: the magnetic field.

The symposium will also see special sessions dedicated to ESA’s programmes and initiatives, including ESA’s key contribution to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, recently renamed ‘Copernicus’. Financing for this ambitious programme was secured earlier this summer when European Parliament approved the multiannual financial framework budget for 2014–20.

Copernicus relies on the provision of robust data, predominantly from Earth observation satellites. ESA is developing the series of Sentinel satellites for this purpose, and the first satellites are expected to be launched within the next year.


The latest results from ESA’s missions and overview of the Earth Observation and Copernicus programme will be presented during the opening plenary session on Monday, 9 September, 10:30–12:00, followed by a 30-minute press briefing.


  • Welcome Address by the UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts
  • Welcome Address by Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General
  • ‘Earth Observation at the beginning of the 21st Century’ by Volker Liebig, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes
  • ‘Copernicus, the European Union Flagship Programme’ by Philippe Brunet, Director at DG Enterprise and Industry, Directorate of Aerospace, Maritime, Security and Defence Industries, European Commission
  • Highlights of Earth Explorer scientific results by Alan O’Neill, Chairman of ESAC


  • Media questions and answers session

The full technical programme will follow after the opening plenary session, and is open to media. Full programme at: www.livingplanet2013.org

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Dr Jill Stuart is an academic based at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is an expert in the politics, ethics and law of outer space exploration and exploitation. She is a frequent presence in the global media (print, radio, television, documentary) and regularly gives lectures around the world. From 2013-2017 she was Editor in Chief of the Elsevier journal Space Policy where she remains on the Editorial Board. She is also on the Board of Advisors of METI International, conducting scientific research into messaging potential extraterrestrial intelligence. She is one of an elite number of people to be endorsed by the UK Home Office as an Exceptional Talent Migrant/ World Leader in her Field. In 2015 she was awarded the prestigious Margaret Mead Award Lecture by the British Science Association in recognition of her cutting edge research. She is trained in both domestic and international mediation and has done consultancy work for the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. She has a sub-specialism in women, peace and security and gender based violence. She is a Trustee of Luton All Women’s Centre.


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