The largest ever conference on geoscience and remote sensing comes to an end after a week of exchanging ideas, identifying research trends and discussing the latest developments in observation techniques.
This year's International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium - IGARSS 2012 - was held in Munich, Germany. Jointly organised by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, the DLR German Aerospace Center and ESA, IGARSS saw more than 2600 participants from 67 countries and over 2500 scientific presentations. "This is a true success for Earth observation in Europe," said Yves-Louis Desnos, ESA's Head of Research and Development Section, Senior Advisor for Science, Applications and Future Technologies Department and co-chair of IGARSS 2012.
"Published, scientific papers have shown how both ESA and national missions have been supporting the development of user applications and initiated some key operational services." Special sessions were held on a variety of topics, including remote sensing techniques, technologies and applications, as well as integrated Earth observation systems and modelling.
The legacy of ESA's Envisat satellite came into focus, with special sessions devoted to the satellite's numerous achievements. The Envisat mission ended in April after doubling its lifetime. The focus is now on the exploitation of its 10 years of data available for further scientific investigations. The future of Earth observation was a hot topic, with half a day dedicated to the Sentinel missions being developed for Europe's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme. DLR used the symposium to highlight the TanDEM-X radar mission, which is being used to create a 3D representation of Earth in a higher quality and resolution than previously possible.
The training of the next generation of Earth observation scientists was also emphasised. Attendees got a chance to witness remote sensing classes for secondary schools in action, including experiments at the DLR School_Lab or data exploitation tutorials with ESA's education tools.
Munich hosted the second IGARSS conference in 1982 with about 350 participants and under the theme "The Promise of Remote Sensing." At that time, remote sensing was at its infancy, with satellite technologies being tested in space for the first time and applications just being discovered. Three decades later, the theme was "Remote Sensing for a Dynamic Earth" - selected to emphasise the unique role of remote sensing for monitoring dynamic processes over Earth's surface. "Spaceborne remote sensing is the only technology that can provide timely, high-resolution information on a global scale about these dynamic processes," said Alberto Moreira, Director of DLR's Microwaves and Radar Institute and co-chair of IGARSS 2012.
"Remote sensing is not only an archive of the history of our Earth, but it also provides the information to predict the changes of Earth processes. "It can help us understand and solve several societal challenges such as climate change, sustainable development, mobility, environmental protection and security."
The next major European event on remote sensing will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland at the September 2013 Living Planet Symposium, where ESA will present the latest results from its numerous Earth observation missions. Organised with the support of the UK Space Agency, the conference will provide an opportunity to introduce future ESA missions, such as the Sentinels, Earth Explorers and meteorological missions, as well as a number of national missions.