The European Space programme thewritingzone
COPERNICUS will ensure regular observation and monitoring of the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces
We all refer to Europe as a common space. The space has expanded its meaning during the past decade due to the advancements in technologies, science, and policy. This evolutionary leap has been so profound that from the beginning of 2014, the European citizens may say that they have unified working systems, accessible space data, and products for realization of their own ideas.  However, before looking at the bright future or drawing the horizon let's have a glimpse on the bumpy road behind.

Remarks on the COPERNICUS history

Started as an initiative in 1998 with 'The Baveno Manifesto', the European space 'Global monitoring for environment and security', a.k.a. COPERNICUS, evolved into a fully fledged space programme which is expected to be fully operational in 2014. So far so good, but the concept of a pan-European system with a global scope has to be steered by at least the ESA (European Space Agency), EEA (European Environmental Agency), and EU member states which number has slowly, but gradually increased since the beginning of the 21st century. What does this mean? Well, this means that ESA and EEA have not only had to cope with the technological advancements, or generate them, or, finally, ultimately advance them, but they have had to make way and secure the future of the initiative in a multinational environment. Eventually, taking into account the EU patchy structure in terms of business, capacities, potentials, and interests this may be the most complex space endeavour ever. In fact, if everything goes well, in the rough times of crisis, this may also serve as one good textbook example what Europeans can achieve if they unify. There are more challenges ahead which the EC, ESA, EEA, and the COPERNICUS administration have to solve before the operational phase of the programme begins, but these will be a part of our next stories.

Editor’s note: For more in depth overview, please check the EUenterprise video  that speaks about GMES which is also known as COPERNICUS. 

The future of the European Space programme

What we, as EU citizens, have to expect from COPERNICUS? Firstly, the program through its dedicated web-portals will literally flood us with space data and products in the fields of marine, land, security, atmosphere, emergency, and climate applications. The data and products are to be released free of charge. In fact, it is expected that this policy will add value to the recovery of the crisis-shaken EU economies, as well as build a new kind of economy, where the borders will be set by our imagination, our own laws and rules only. However, if we go even further we may see that the open data, e-government, big data, and high-speed Internet (which are also part of the near future) as well as the reconstructed financial and political sectors will pave a brand new road for EU economy. In this new economy the space (in any meaning) will be ubiquitous - from our GPS and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) in vehicles, at home or in telecommunications that we already use, through the everyday choice of a restaurant or a nearby car park to our new job. How about an insurance company that makes its risk assessment based on open data principle? The NGO sectors will definitely thrive in such an environment. In an interview in April 2013 Reinhard Schulte-Braucks  (Head of Copernicus, European Commission) said that the direct economic benefits would create 20 000 new workplaces directly and 63 000 indirectly by 2030. In the future OneEurope articles, you will be able to read about all those bright perspectives and the best ideas of COPERNICUS data and services use.

Epilogue 

We live in a time where everything expands - the entertainment went from 2D to 3D, the augmented reality, Web 2.0 to name but a few. Therefore, it was about time for the EU to take a leap, get the utmost from its space, and to expand its potential uses. Space is a term we all are about to hear more frequently in the years to come. Let us not just hear, but listen and be part of this amazing story.

Edited by: Edgaras Katinas 
Photo: Drax is a large coal-fired power station located in the UK by thewritingzone via Flickr