Joshua Kutryk: Hi, here is Joshua Kutryk, Canadian Space Agency astronaut. Today, we will be talking about observing the Earth from space
Space gives us a vantage point to look back at the Earth.
This picture was taken by my friend David Saint-Jacques while he was living aboard the ISS. Taking pictures of the Earth was one of his favorite activities during his free time.
To observe the Earth full time and help us solve many of our planet's challenges, Canada has created powerful tools capable of collecting information from space: Earth Observation Satellites.
Each of these satellites gathers specific information about our planet. Together, they provide essential information about our oceans, the ice in the Northern regions, the environment and the atmosphere.
Let’s look closer at how satellites benefit our lives here on Earth.
We know that we can all do our part to help protect the environment. Satellites can help us in this endeavour.
Think about it… how can we look at places that are difficult to access such as the Arctic? Or substances that are difficult to see with the naked eye, such as greenhouse gazes?
Satellites can do that! With them, we can see the big picture of our land, waters and atmosphere, and how they interact and change over time.
They tell us about our planet’s past, present and projected future. They help us understand and adapt to climate change.
The CSA has been observing Earth from space for over two decades. Canadian satellites and instruments monitor climate change impacts, ice dynamics, air pollution, ozone depletion and greenhouse gases.
RADARSAT imagery is also used to monitor signs of coastal erosion, which can be caused by melting of ice or rising sea levels, two known effects resulting from climate change.
Monitoring changes in Canada’s coast is especially important, as our country has the longest coastline in the world, which is home to unique biodiversity and resources.
Satellites have an important impact over the food we eat.
Imagine that you are a farmer and that you have a very large field. It is impossible for you to know which part of your field needs more or less water because you cannot see the entire field at once from the ground. You probably need some tools to help you out.
By using applications that analyze data from space, farmers know more about the soil moisture and the general health of their crops. They can make better decisions about the amount of water, fertilizer or pesticide they must use.
It helps both their operations and the environment.
Satellites help us stay healthy.
They cannot see the virus or bacteria that cause a disease, but they can see conditions from the environment or climate - for example land cover, humidity, air pollution - that can lead to some health problem, such as infectious diseases.
Satellites help identify where the risks are and favorable conditions for a disease to be present or to grow. It is particularly useful for vector-borne, waterborne and airborne diseases.
Think about Lyme disease caused by ticks when you do outdoor activities. Information from satellites are used to help prevent and monitor this type of disease.
Satellites can also help guide ground interventions during major epidemics. For example, it was used during the Ebola epidemic outbreaks in Africa to locate roads and areas at risk and to support the deployment of services such as temporary hospitals.
Satellites help to keep us safe during natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, wildfire, and hurricanes.
Firefighters and paramedics use information from satellites to identify the areas affected and find the fastest routes to save lives.
Data from satellites help us understand how climate change is affecting the Great North.
It can show how ice is moving and its thickness.
It can show permafrost melting and its impact on infrastructure. Permafrost is a type of soil found in cold regions, especially near the poles, that is constantly maintained at a temperature of 0°C or less for at least two consecutive years. Melting permafrost release greenhouse gazes in the atmosphere and can destabilize lands.
Understanding these changes can help us look after the environment in the Canadian North and Northern communities.
To better understand how satellites are essential for those who work or live in the Great North, take the story of ship’s captain Michael Stokes. He transports food to northern communities and he uses ice maps created from satellites to navigate in the Arctic. It helps him take decision so he doesn’t get jammed in ice.
And it does not stop there. Satellites help keep our oceans clean. The RADARSAT Constellation Mission helps detect potential vessel oil spills and other pollution events in Canadian waters.
This information enables response organizations to quickly contain and mitigate the damage, reducing impacts on the health of marine birds, mammals and ecosystems.
And this is only a glimpse of what satellites can do today.
Satellites are not just useful to get us the Internet and help us communicate with our family and friends.
The information they send back to Earth improves our lives every day.
And in the future, they will be able to do even more!
If we combine information from satellites with artificial intelligence or powerful computing, for example, we could go as far as predicting natural disasters before they happen, so that we can mitigate their consequences.
We could also create powerful and detailed maps that would tell us where our endangered species are, so that we can better protect them.
That’s why it’s so important to keep developing creative and innovative technologies: not only they improve our lives today, but they also help us find solutions for future challenges too.
If you enjoyed learning about Canadian satellites and observing the Earth from space, visit the CSA website. You’ll find more information about these topics and fun activities too!