Space for Earth — 🖐🎤💥 MicDrop #8 by Pierre-Elie Crouzet

This is a transcript of the speech given by Pierre-Elie Crouzet, Applied scientist at European Space Agency, during MicDrop#8 ‘Space for Earth’ on November 13th, 2018, Digital Society Schoolin Amsterdam.

Pierre-Elie kicks off his Mic drop by introducing himself as a ‘Labrat’, a scientist who works primarily in his lab, surrounded by noise, darkness and occupied with his measurements. But as a scientist, he has become increasingly interested in how the technologies used for space programs can support the sustainable development of the Earth while working on the development of a ‘Sunshine in Nosy Komba’ project in Madagascar. Sunshine in Nosy Komba is a project being carried out in the island of Nosy Komba, Madagascar, initiated and supported by ESA staff. It focuses on education, health care and economic development.

Pierre-Elie (r) giving a class on space in Nosy Komba.

The question Pierre-Elie had after this project was what space can do for the Sustainable Development Goals. The work that has to be done to reach one of these goals is enormous. But how can space help with this problem? Satellites have worldwide coverage and are available 24/7. And everything that is used to send a satellite into space can be brought back and help with development.

Satellites have two main roles: ‘Monitor’ and ‘Achievements’.

Monitor

The monitor role can help scientists understand images from space. Satellite images are used to look at the levels and the temperature of the waters surrounding certain cities and towns. A lot of monitoring can serve goals on Earth; for instance: the data from satellites can show moisture in the land and it can lead to the development of smart farming and sustainable cities. Monitoring can also be used for rescue in the case of disaster when comparing an image before and after a flood how to make the rescue more effective and how major disasters in the future can be prevented.

After a flood, a map showing the maximum extent of the flooding will be produced.

Achievements

As opposed to the first role, where it was about observing the Earth, this role is focused on how the technologies developed for space can be utilized for development on the ground. In space, you have to recycle as much as possible. And one of the earliest innovations of space technology is how to recycle urine and nitrate into clean and drinkable water for the population. And this technology is now implemented in the water infrastructure in countries.

“When you want to go to space, you don’t bring your cow or your stamppot, you have to be as efficient as you can with food.”

Spirulina is a bacteria used as a supplement in the astronaut’s diet. Spirulina can be harvested and has a lot of proteins, Vitamin A and Iron. The transfer has been done with the population of Congo and they are now growing Spirulina.

Spirulina harvested by inhabitants of Congo. This crate is enough to feed 6 people for one year.

Different techniques blend into different disciplines. And a lot of innovation that is done in space technology bleeds over to other industries. The artificial heart has a very high requirement on the topic of durability and the technology, knowledge and design strategy used for the telecom satellites has aided the development of the artificial heart. Satellites are also used for education; where antennas can help give remote areas access to the internet and give students an opportunity to connect with the outside world.

Thanks to a clear connection with satellites, visually impaired people can use a keyboard to input their directions and get accurate GPS signals where they will have to walk.

Tormes is a computer with a Braille keyboard and satellite navigation technology that gives verbal directions.

All these space technologies can aid the development of other solutions when they are given the chance. The assumption is that these technologies are expensive, however, the annual budget for ESA is two cinema tickets for every person in Europe.

The annual budget for ESA is two cinema tickets a person.

And all of these technologies are available, so it is possible to bridge the gap between ideas and space technology. Copernicus is a free service that provides you with a map and data of air pollution, oceanographic levels and vegetation growth. ESA is the sponsor of a Kickstarter community, where they grant up to 60,000 euro a year for the next great idea. How can open-source hardware develop your idea? ESA has made a list available of all open-source projects for inventors to explore. There are already projects in ESA’s incubator and you can contribute to bridging the gap between space technologies and Earth’s sustainable goals. The clock is ticking, so we should embrace the Sustainable Development Goals and work together to find a solution. We can keep chasing the stars and exploring the universe, but we should never forget where we are coming from… Earth.

The DSS Mic Drops are inspirational, interactive, provocative master classes given by expert researchers and practitioners, on topics that relate to design, tech, societal challenges and how we can make the world a better place by integrating technology more wisely and humanely.

Interested in what’s next? Save the date the first Mic Drop of 2019, on January 9, with a very special guest of Future Living Lab Space 10.