Royal inauguration for Europe's Earth and Space Week
His Royal Highness Prince Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium, joined European Commission Vice-President in charge of Enterprise and Industry, Günter Verheugen, and European Space Agency Earth Observation Director Volker Liebig to officially open the Earth and Space Expo on Friday morning.
At the same time, the winners of a special childrens' competition to design 'A Flag for Planet Earth' were unveiled, appropriate for an event dedicated to showing the benefits to our planet that come from Earth Observation and space exploration, and 'celebrating our planet, while reaching for the stars'.
The people of Brussels had already had their eyes opened to the spectacular event taking place in their midst, with the activation on Wednesday of the Earth and Space Sphere, a 20—metre-diameter internally-lit display showing a wide range of space-based imagery.
Formally open to the public for free from Saturday morning, The Earth and Space Expo is comprised of more than 3000 square metres of attractive exhibits and visual information will allow visitors of all ages to enjoy and share the most exciting successes of European space activities. The nine-day event takes place at Brussels' Autoworld on Parc du Cinquantenaire.
Visitors will find state-of-the-art interactive exhibitions of Earth Observation tools and applications, and how they benefit our world, as well as displays of current and future space initiatives. Young people can visit an Earth & Space Classroom to learn about our planet and the space beyond, while people of all ages can enjoy a range a seminars, films and presentations intended to educate, inform and inspire.
The Expo is taking place under the umbrella of Earth and Space Week 2005, part of a number of events being organised by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Space Agency.
The International Earth Observation Summit on 16 February will help shape future Earth Observation capabilities and applications and increase cooperation in space, especially for the developing world. The Summit is set to lay the foundations for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, with the approval of a Ten-Year Implementation Plan to create such a 'GEOSS'. Proponents believe the System could reduce famine, eliminate epidemics and save lives in future.
On the same day, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will sign the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters". JAXA will thus become a backer of this initiative, which aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters. Each member has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter, helping to mitigate the impact of such disasters on human life and property.
And on 17-18 February, addressing the theme "Winning through Cooperation: Sharing the Benefits of Space", an International Conference on Cooperation in Space will bring together space experts from all space-faring agencies. This event will highlight the shared gains from international cooperation on space programmes, assess the scope for new avenues for cooperation and consider the role the European space programme – currently being planned in the framework of the European Space Council - could play in strengthening international cooperation.
A live link-up with the astronauts currently on board the International Space Station will open the conference proceedings. This will be followed by keynote speeches by ESA Director General Dordain and EC Vice President Verheugen.
Earth and Space Week 2005 will also, on 17 February, play host to a European International Space Station Business Club (IBC) workshop on 'ISS & Beyond'. Speakers from ESA, national space agencies and industry will focus on the European space exploration programme and the opportunities it could open up for companies in this area.