Space Products & Innovation
Governance, Education, and Infrastructure
The importance of space as a driver for education also extends to other parts of the world. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has begun implementing a strategic plan titled “Astronomy for the Developing World.” The resulting Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) is hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory. The OAD uses the scientific, technological, and cultural benefits of astronomy as a development tool by soliciting and funding project proposals, hosting visiting experts, and organizing a variety of astronomy-themed educational events.
The space industry plays a vital role in supporting government, enabling education, and providing critical infrastructure. Particularly in developing countries, satellite services are able to meet communication needs in the absence of ground-based networks, while remote sensing and GPS satellites are used to facilitate humanitarian relief efforts and human rights monitoring.
More than 31 million students have participated in ISS-related educational demonstrations and more than 1 million students have conducted experiments linked to the space station. That number will grow even more with two new educational programs that began in 2011. The Plants in Space project, funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, allows students to compare observations about ISS plant growth to those on Earth. In September 2011, astronauts on the space station planted Brassica rapa seeds with the goal of investigating the influence of light on root orientation.
Many countries use satellite technology for education. With the August 2011 launch of the PAKSAT-1R communications satellite, Pakistan has joined this group of nations. The satellite, which provides TV broadcasting, internet, and data communication services, extends modern communications to the whole country. Pakistan’s prime minister urged the national space agency to focus on tele-education for improving the quality of life in remote areas. The technology allows Pakistani students in outlying areas with little or no access to educational resources to link up with classrooms in major cities.
In addition to locating humans in danger, satellite tracking is also used to monitor animals. About six or seven mountain lions are believed to live in the Santa Monica Mountains in California, and the National Park Service had been tracking one of these animals for nearly two years using a GPS collar.
Many GPS-enabled applications allow walkers, runners, and cyclists to track the path of their exercise route, providing location, speed and other statistical information. The information collected is usually used for tracking personal progress toward fitness goals, but these applications can have other interesting benefits.
The California Department of Fish and Game developed an application for mobile phones to help stop illegal fishing. The application allows fishermen to use a GPS-enabled phone to determine their location on a map of California’s marine protected areas.
Increasingly, United Nations and international nongovernmental workers dealing with humanitarian needs in war-torn countries, such as Iraq and Somalia, are relying on GPS technologies to coordinate aid remotely.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, a collaboration between Google, the United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and other nongovernmental organizations, is attempting to use similar technology to monitor, and hopefully deter, humanitarian abuses.