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Scientists from Europe and China review observation measures in place to help better understand the planet.

With experts and scientists discussing space and continued scientific developments at a recent conference at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the conversation had less to do with interstellar travel and distant galaxies, and more to do monitoring strategies and systems to better understand the impacts humans are having on the world.

At the July 1 “Let’s Embrace Space” conference at the European Union/Belgium joint pavilion, the EU brought in several scientific experts and researchers from Europe and China to discuss the programs both regions are developing to better understand Earth, including the use of satellites and orbital sensors to monitor climate change, air quality, ocean mapping and disaster areas, as well as the steps Europe and China are taking to advance scientific research in those fields.

“I am amazed at the level of cooperation between Europe and China at the technical level. We are also only at the beginning of cooperation,” said Chris de Cooker, head of the European Space Administration’s international relations department. “We have better data, and we are helping each other with data. Another part to this is being able to analyze previous data so we can learn from it, and can be more up front with forecasting.”

In addition, de Cooker noted the continued growth of the ESA program, which is currently comprised of 18 European countries, and the push it is making to fully integrate all European nations into the scientific organization.

Several panelists also spoke on China’s Dragon Program, a scientific research program now in its second phase, which includes stimulating scientific exchange, symposiums and published studies between China and Europe.

“I benefit from international cooperation not just for scientific knowledge but also in terms of my own growth,” said Peng Zhang, a member of the National Satellite Meteorological Center in China. “There are certain fields of study in China with very few scientists. The Dragon Program provides us with a good platform to know the European scientists in a given field. We do benefit from European scientists, and with these agreements we not only benefit from technology, but also the funding to continue our research.”

Peng’s discussion noted China’s efforts to effectively monitor air pollutants in the country, and the current proposals being made to broaden existing ground level monitoring and air quality assessments in China.

Other panelists included Reinhard Schulte-Braucks, head of space research and development for the European Commission, who reviewed current Earth monitoring systems in place for European countries, Gao Zhihai, National Remote Sensing Center in China, who discussed Chinese satellites related to climate observation, He Ming-Xia, honorary director of Ocean Remote Sensing Institute in China, who reviewed the observatory systems in place around China for monitoring oceans, Philippe Ciais of Le Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et I’Environnement, and Piao Shilong, professor at Peking University, who jointly presented an overview of research related to carbon cycles around the world, and Tobias Skovbjerg Gras, a member of the space research communication for the European Commission.