World Space Week is an international celebration of the contribution of space science and technology in efforts of creating better living conditions for humankind. The World Space Week celebrations which are held annually from October 4-10 were established through a declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999. The 2020 celebrations will be held under the theme “Satellites improve life”.
Satellites have brought about a paradigm shift in the way people conceptualize the world through redefining the critical spheres of human life such as communication, disaster management, health, education, mobility and provision of goods and services. The world has embraced space science and scientists are dedicating their energies towards feeling knowledge gaps and harnessing space science to create a deeper understating on how to sustain the livelihood of mankind.
As a young scientist who grew up in a less developed country my knowledge on the vast capacities in the exploration of the world around us to review new insights that can improve the collective welfare of the human race was quite limited. This was until 2013 when my eyes were opened to space science after I joined the African Regional Centre for Space Science Technology Education English (ARCSSTE-E) to study satellite communications. The aerial view that satellites create has allowed for the view and analysis of a vast surface area of the earth at one time allowing for the collection of data much faster as compared to other instruments that operate on the earth surface.
Satellites have been established as the best tool for environmental management and monitoring. They create an opportunity to examine the previous state of the natural environment and the effect of human activities over time. Three Weather Geostationary satellites can provide weather forecasts for the whole world.
Following my exposer to space science and technology at the African Regional Centre for Space Science Technology Education English (ARCSSTE-E I have come to the realization that the curiosity of one individual through science can review insights that have cascade ever-changing civilizations. The historic launch by Soviets Union of the first artificial satellite on the 4th of October 1957 was the genesis of the space age. The creative imagination by Tsiolkovski that rockets can be used to launch satellites into space brought about the reality of space science and technology and their reality to most countries of the World. The curiosity of Professor Bob Twiggs that brought about the urgency to developing miniature satellites that fit in a 350ml container and have a mass below 350g has made CubeSat’s a de facto standard for small satellite development.
There are essentially three types of Earth orbits: Geostationary Earth orbit, Medium Earth orbit, and Low Earth orbit. Satellite is classified by the mission, and also type of orbit they are placed into for example GPS satellite, broadcasting satellite, earth observation satellite, climate satellite and astronomy satellite.
|36000km||Geostationary||Communication satellites, Weather satellites, internet satellite|
|20000km||Medium orbit||Navigation satellites, speciality satellites designed to monitor a particular region|
|250-1000km||Low Earth Orbit||Earth observation, Educational, International Space Station, internet satellite services (constellation is required)|
Satellites can be used to achieve precision in agriculture through the advent of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) that allow farmers to precisely identify areas within a field which are experiencing difficulties, so that they can apply, for instance, ‘the correct type and amount of fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide. Using navigation, the farmer does not only improve the productivity on the land but also can reduce farm input costs, minimizes environmental impacts and makes timely decisions in crop management.
Satellites provide humans with a better understanding of the world from earth observations and earth explorations. Earth observation satellite can use remote sensing to attain positive results in areas of food security, disease surveillance and epidemiology, disaster management, health, security and environmental management. They are also used to measure gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, and the amount of energy that Earth absorbs and emits. Satellites monitor wildfires, volcanoes and their smoke.
Satellites help scientists to predict weather and climate. This information helps health officials to track diseases and famine, it helps farmers to decide on the crops to plant; and also, they help emergency workers to respond to natural disasters. Satellites can be used to discover new water sources. With climate change presenting a greater catastrophe for flora and fauna and satellites have presented hope for emergency services through providing early warning systems that will inform the evacuation programmes in case of storms, earthquakes and extreme weather.
The establishment of the Africa Space Agency is a show of visionary leadership by African leaders who have seen the benefits of space technologies (satellites) and applications for sustainable development and improvement of the welfare of Africans. Satellites will play a critical role in improving the economies of most Africa countries and quality of life of Africans through the aforementioned benefits. Let’s join the world in commemorating the 2020 World Space Week by joining events that have been lined up across the world.
Bio: Timothy is a Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) African Space Leader Award for 2019. He has been the World Space Week National Coordinator for Zimbabwe since 2014. He is a Senior Scientist at the Zimbabwe National Geospatial Agency (ZINGSA ). Currently, he is a Research student at Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.