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European Space Expo brings space closer to earth

Space technology is more relevant to our everyday lives than we often think and the European Space Expo, a free, interactive exhibition, highlights exactly how space technology can improve life on planet Earth.

Between March 28 and April 5, the European Space Expo is coming to Athens after having been to 23 other European cities. An initiative of the European Commission, the Space Expo has already been visited by more than 500,000 Europeans, giving them the opportunity to get informed about the European space program and to discover the many applications that are used on earth for the benefit of European citizens.

Inside an impressive dome, at the heart of Athens, the Expo was inaugurated by Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, who stressed that the accessible knowledge presented at the Expo shows how “feasible, concrete and recognizable in our everyday lives the many benefits of space applications.”

Aikaterini Kavvada, head of the Galileo and EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) Units of the European Commission, explained how the European space policy is materialized through two primary initiatives.

Copernicus is an Earth observation program which systematically provides information in six areas: land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management and security. While Galileo is the first global infrastructure for satellite radio navigation and positioning through satellite that is designed for non-military purposes.

“Space technology allows us Europeans through political and economic independence to enhance our position as a major actor in the global arena, next to big countries and great nations which are also active in the field of space policy, such as the United States, Russia, China,” Kavvada said.

Kavvada, who has been working on Galileo for 16 years, presented one of the two satellite launches that had taken placed recently.

The satellite “Anastasia” is named after the 15-year-old Greek winner of the Galileo Space Drawing Competition, Anastasia Panagiotakopoulou, who was also present at the Expo’s opening ceremony on March 28. The painting depicts a laundry line starting from earth and ending in space, which according to Kavvada, “gives a clearly human dimension to the program and truly brings space to earth.”

Prof. Kanaris Tsinganos, president of the National Observatory of Athens, highlighted the role of Greece in the European Space activities.

“Greece is participating for the first time and with a central role in Proba 3, a system of two satellites that will go around earth and observe the solar atmosphere, and their electronics are produced by our teams here in Greece,” said Tsinganos.

The National Observatory of Athens, which won a Copernicus Masters award for its fire management system, will be the first station collecting, processing and disseminating data to the whole Southeastern Mediterranean, according to Tsinganos.

The current recession in Europe does not make space research less relevant, quite the contrary, experts said.

“On a European level, space policy has been recognized as one of the main pillars for growth,” said Eleftherios Mamais, an astrophysicist and representative of the Expo.

“We are talking about applications that help reduce costs and increase efficiency, for example free services like the ones that Galileo or EGNOS offer can be used by farmers in order to reduce pesticide use, to improve crop productivity, etc.,” said Mamais.

“In Brussels, we strongly believe that the funds spent constitute an investment for the future and the quality of life for contemporary as well as future European citizens,” said Kavvadas.

“We have seen that for every euro spent for Galileo or Copernicus, a multiple of this initial investment comes back to the European economy. If you analyze it, for every European citizen it costs less than a cinema ticket,” observed Mamais.