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N° 61–2001: Earth Explorers at Granada

29 October 2001

On 30 and 31 October Granada is hosting, at the Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones, the third workshop on ESA's Earth Explorer programme, to be inaugurated in the presence of Mrs Anna María Birulés y Bertrán, the Spanish Minister for Science and Technology, and Mr Antonio Rodotà, Director General of the European Space Agency.


Leading scientists from across Europe will be taking part in a two-day peer review leading to a recommendation on which three out of five potential Earth Explorer missions ESA should take to the next assessment stage. The launch of the first mission selected is scheduled for 2007.

Media representatives wishing to attend are welcome from 9 a.m. at the Palacio de Congresos, in Granada.

"The idea behind ESA's programme is to model the Earth as an integrated system," explained Einar-Arne Herland, Head of the Agency's Earth Sciences Division. "The interactions between the atmosphere, oceans and land have to be studied to enable us to understand the Earth as a system."

Satellites intended to fill gaps in our understanding of Earth system processes are designated Earth Explorers. They will build on ESA's experience in constructing Earth observation spacecraft such as the two ERS satellites and Envisat, but they will differ from their predecessors in that their costs will be lower and their dimensions smaller. "And each spacecraft will be dedicated to a specific area of study", said Herland.

The missions under review:

ACECHEM (Atmospheric Composition Explorer for CHEMistry and climate interaction):

Spectrometers will investigate how human-induced chemical alterations to the troposphere and stratosphere may go on to cause climate change.

EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosol and Radiation Explorer):

Instruments, including radar, lidar, imager, radiometer and spectrometer, will investigate interactions between clouds, aerosol and radiation to better understand their impact on climate.

SPECTRA (Surface Processes and Ecosystem Changes Through Response Analysis):

A high-performance imaging spectrometer and a thermal imager will study the relationship between vegetation and climate change, across the entire world's ecosystems.

WALES (WAter vapour Lidar Experiment in Space): A lidar - a laser-based device that works on the same principle as radar - will map atmospheric water vapour concentrations.

WATS (WAter vapour and temperature in the Troposphere and Stratosphere):

A flotilla of small satellites will measure tropospheric and stratospheric humidity and temperature by checking how GPS radio signals are bent by passage through them.


For more info, please contact

Mr. Alberto Tobias

Tel: +31 71 565 3992

e-mail :


For further information:

Alberto Tobias, ESA/ESTEC