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|Making the best use of Envisat and friends|
|Now that Envisat is in orbit and we have access to more data about our Earth and its environment, how can we ensure the best use of this data as well as that from other EO satellites? These answers will be addressed at the Users Symposium.|
|Organised by ESA's Data User Programme, the Symposium will be held at ESRIN, ESA's Space Research Institute, on 23 and 24 April.
What is the Data User Programme (DUP) and why was it started? Who are the users? Why is there going to be a Symposium? Who better to answer these questions than Nico Bunnik, Delegate of The Netherlands to the DUP and a member of its Advisory Committee.
Portal: Why was the DUP set up?
In my view, ESA is in a better position to carry out this service. It has the mechanisms to encourage cooperation, which may be more difficult to do at national level, and within ESA there is a lot of existing experience and technical knowledge about Earth observation systems, data products and the delivery of data products - experience that can be of great value for users.
This is why, in 1992 the Member States asked the ESA Director General to set up a programme to encourage the use of satellite data, primarily from ESA missions. The DUP began work in 1996 for a first phase of five years, it is an optional programme of ESA and is currently subscribed to by Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
Portal: What is the DUP?
The word users is also important. Users can be service providers, governments, international organizations or commercial companies working in the oil, land development, civil engineering or maritime sectors. Governments, for example, have a particular need for Earth observation data in order to manage national and EU environmental policy. The best way of ensuring that satellite data is used, is to involve users from the outset and throughout the life of the project.
Portal: Why is the Users Symposium being held in April?
This symposium will also be useful for ESA staff. It will help them in the management of ongoing projects - at present 48 projects are underway - as well as in planning for the future. In 2003 the second period of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme will commence and the DUP will become part of this programme.
During the first year the two programmes will overlap, so it is important to plan an approach and to see how this period can best be used to benefit the DUP users. It is also essential to ensure that the DUP harmonises with ESAâ€™s Earth Watch programme and its contribution to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative of the European Commission and ESA.
I believe that the DUP will be instrumental in stimulating the service industry, which in the EU is still in its infancy. When most people - and governments - think of space, they think of the manufacturing industry, building satellites and launchers etc. These are of course vital, but the future of satellite Earth observation applications lies in fostering the services sector during the necessary time period. The DUP is an important step in this direction.