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Space for Heritage

News & Events - 2010 

The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) makes a big step forward in Earth observation from space

TanDEM-X satellite
TanDEM-X satellite
© German Aerospace Center (DLR)
The German Aerospace Centre (DLR), one of UNESCO’s space partners, successfully launched its second Earth observation satellite, TanDEM-X
On 21 June 2010 the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) successfully launched its Earth observation satellite, TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement), from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Its mission is to provide a homogeneous 3D elevation model of the Earth, said DLR Chairman Prof. Dr Johann-Dietrich Wörner.


A 4D GIS to support the conservation of the Calakmul archaeological site and biosphere reserve

25 May 2010, Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico

Within the framework of a collaboration agreement with UNESCO and in order to help the Mexican authorities to preserve the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and Cultural World Heritage, the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) funded the Calakmul 4D Geographic Information System project. This online system will allow the managers of the natural and cultural protected area to store, share, visualize and create interaction between their data, in order to coordinate various conservation, management, planning, monitoring and research activities undertaken in the area.

The system was officially delivered to the Mexican authorities on Tuesday, 25 May for implementation. The second phase of the project that will start in the next months will include capacity-building and training courses.


Guess of the day:

Which event do you think add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? The eruption of the Eyjafjalla Volcano, 3,000 flights or the burning of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

On 21 March 2010 the Eyjafjalla Volcano in Iceland erupted, and the expanding ash cloud grounded over 3,000 flights in Europe. Then on April 20, a major oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the preferred method for dealing with the oil spill is to collect it using skimmers, burning it is also a common option. A major concern in burning this oil is the addition of carbon dioxide (Co2) to the atmosphere during the combustion process.

Which event do you think add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? Check the response

The DLR and UNESCO exhibition currently at the UN campus in Bonn, Germany

April 2010, Bonn, Germany

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and UNESCO inaugurated in Paris, France, in March 2009, the exhibition 'What a Sight - Space Looking out for World Heritage'. For almost two months thirty extra large high-resolution satellite images of UNESCO World Heritage sites were exhibited outside the UNESCO Headquarters.

This large satellite images reveal different natural and cultural heritage sites from space and show us the traces that humankind has left on our planet. Viewing Earth from space gives us new insights and enables us to monitor and assess changes over the long term.

Most of the images shown are the result of joint activities DLR and UNESCO to assist developing countries.

After travelling from Paris to Berlin, Stuttgart, Cologne and Brussels the exhibition is currently being shown at the UN campus in Bonn, Germany.

Access the images of the exhibition 'What a Sight - Space Looking out for World Heritage'

Satellite images to assess the Haiti earthquake damage

Space agencies generously assisting humanitarian, UN and UNESCO activities as an immediate, and sometimes only information available to assess the Haiti earthquake damage.

A selected group of space agencies, conscious of their social responsibility towards the well fare of humankind, have agreed to activate all their satellites when a natural catastrophe occurs.

This was the case of the Haiti’s earthquake. UNESCO, through its strong partnership with the space agencies, obtained satellite information to support UNESCO’s assessment and associated reaction plan to assist Haiti.

The European Space Agency (ESA), the French Space Agency (CNES), Geoeye, and Spot Image, generously provided satellite imagery to UNESCO.

Special side event at UN CB: Space Supporting the Rio, World Heritage and Ramsar Conventions

© UN Convention on Biological Diversity

26 May 2008, Bonn, Germany

“Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage Convention” on the French/German TV channel ARTE.

EURONEWS made a documentary, featuring how UNESCO is working with ESA on the conservation of the Earth's biodiversity.

European Space Agency at the 9th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, invites UNESCO.

A large amount of people gathered on Monday 26th May for the 9th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity held in Bonn, Germany.

UNESCO took part of a special side event organized by its partner the European Space Agency (ESA)


3D modelling in archaeology and cultural heritage

Summer school in Ascona
9-14 May 2008 - Ascona, Switzerland

The UNESCO partner, Federal Polytechnical School of Zurich (ETH-Zurich) organized, jointly with UNESCO a summer school oriented to archaeologists and cultural heritage conservationists. The main objective is to illustrate the use of ‘space technologies (for experts: geomatics) for the 3D modelling of cultural heritage sites.

Twenty two different countries attended the school with a major representation from both western and Eastern Europe but including also students from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Philippines and USA.

Read more

The Open Initiative at the CNES – Toulouse Space Show 2008

© CNES Space Show 2008

ESA-UNESCO joint session: space technologies as an educational tool

Toulouse was the host of the CNES Space Show 2008 where the ESA-UNESCO Open Initiative was presented.

Conservation of our natural and cultural heritage implies a good involvement of the young generation: it is in the mind of the youngsters that the idea of conservation and sustainable use must be developed.  Therefore ESA and UNESCO are making use of all the results of the activities implemented under the “Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage Convention” as educational tool to create awareness among the young generation. This paper illustrates how UNESCO is involving the schools in the surrounding of the World Heritage sites and using satellite images as a powerful educational tool. In addition UNESCO is closely collaborating with ESA’s educational programme Eduspace where particular modules on the use of remote sensing as applied for the preservation of cultural and natural heritage is illustrated.

The French Space agency (CNES) and UNESCO: space and archaeology

April 24th, Toulouse

A Workshop led by the CNES Technical Skills Centre (C.C.T.)

“Archaeology and Remote Sensing”

UNESCO had the great honor to be invited by CNES to co-organize the above- mentioned workshop. For further information about the programme:

UNESCO is thankful to the excellent work of Mr. Luc Lapierre who was able to put together an extremely interesting and successful session of space and archaeology.     

The ESA-UNESCO “Open Initiative: From Space to Place” makes an important step forward

The 179th Executive Board

Establishment of a dedicated Centre in Beijing, China

On Monday 14th of April, the UNESCO 179th Executive Board Meeting, approved the proposal from the Government of China to establish a UNESCO-Centre for the “Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage Convention” in Beijing China.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has been a partner of the ‘Open Initiative’. With this proposal, China makes a step forward not only continuing to be a partner of UNESCO but this time putting at the service of UNESCO financial and human resources to assist through space technologies the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage.

The process requires the endorsement of the UNESCO General Conference (October 2009). However we can start now setting up the main modalities for the Centre.

The Centre will be located inside the Centre for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE) from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. CEODE was created in 2007 by integrating under a single centre all Chinese activities related with satellite images reception (operating three antennas), satellite image processing, and the new activity of ‘digital China extended to digital earth’.

With this new offer we have now a partner in Beijing that offers strong support services for developing countries in the framework of the ESA-UNESCO ‘Open Initiative’. International cooperation is the best approach for the preservation of our heritage.

Note: If you really want to know about the UNESCO’s ‘jargon’ and would like to consult the associated document, please visit:







Spot Image joins the ‘Open Initiative: From space to Place’

© Spot Image - Planet Action
7th March 2008

The Deputy Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Marcio Barbosa concluded today an agreement with the President of Spot Image Mr. Herve Buchwalter.

Spotimage’s new initiative Planet Action joins the UNESCO ‘Open Initiative: From Space To Place’ to offer to UNESCO and partners collaboration in the use of Earth Observation for assessing climate change.

In partnership, UNESCO and Spot Image, a subsidiary of the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) are working jointly to use Earth Observation from space to ‘spot’ UNESCO sites with cutting-edge satellite imagery and assist conservation authorities in monitoring climate change issues. The main goal is to support decision makers in engaging in action.

UNESCO looks forward to strengthen the cooperation with Spot Image.

The ‘Open Initiative: From space to Place’ at the International Astronautical Congress at Hyderabad

The 58th International Astronautical Congress 2007

24th September 2007, India 

The 58th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2007) opens today in Hyderabad, India. This annual congress, one of the major space events of the year, brings together some 2000 international specialists, industry representatives and world leaders in the field.

It provides a crossroad uniting the world’s space agencies, astronautics institutes, aerospace scientific associations and firms involved in space activities.

UNESCO will be present to have a special session with the heads of space agencies, to meet with the UN World Meteorological Organization and to be present on a highlight event about “Space in the UN the last 50 years and the next 50 years ahead”.

The ‘Open Initiative: From space to Place’ at EARSeL


4th June 2007, International Symposium of the European Association of Remote Sensing laboratories

Following the strong collaboration between UNESCO and the International Symposium of the European Association of Remote Sensing laboratories (EARSel) on the use of remote sensing for natural and cultural heritage conservation, UNESCO will have its yearly session at the prestigious EARSeL congress. In addition UNESCO will present the associated educational activities of the ‘Open Initiative’. This time is of particular interest for the ‘Open Initiative’ since EARSeL might approve the establishment of a ‘Special Interest Group on remote sensing and archaeology’.

International Astronautical Federation reinforces UNESCO-ESA ‘Open Initiative’

21 March 2007, Paris
UNESCO and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) signed a partnership agreement at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 21 March 2007, pledging support for the UNESCO and European Space Agency (ESA)‘Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage Convention’.

The French Space Agency (CNES) joins the ‘Open Initiative: From space to Place’

21 March 2007

The Deputy Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Marcio Barbosa concluded today an agreement with the President of the French Space Agency (CNES), Mr. Yannick d'Escath.

The signature of the agreement formalizes the joint cooperation between CNES and UNESCO. Both institutions have been working jointly through the generous cooperation of CNES to offer all the activities of their ISIS programme. ISIS (in French: encouraging the scientific utilization of SPOT images) is a call to research organizations to propose studies using earth observation from space, in particular SPOT data. Within the large amount of projects proposed many deal with the mapping, documentation or monitoring of UNESCO World Heritage sites. This valuable information has been generously offered by CNES to UNESCO.

The signature now implies a stronger collaboration by CNES making call for offers based on UNESCO needs, using the results in educational activities and organizing joint capacity building workshops.

UNESCO looks forward to strengthen the cooperation with CNES.

UNESCO and the International Astronautical Federation had previously initiated activities together, notably a special session at the IAF 2005 Congress (Fukukoa, Japan) and an event during the following Congress in Valencia (Spain).
The ceremony also marked the first celebrations of the 50 years of space age, bringing together more than 400 space specialists and high-level managers of national and international space agencies.
Boris Chertok, one of the fathers of the Soviet space exploration programme
In October 1957, for the first time in the history of humankind, a human-made object was launched into space orbit: Sputnik. This small step made 50 years ago is considered the beginning of humankind’s conquest of space, indicating the beginning of a new era for all.
50th anniversary of the Space age
ESA’s Stephen Briggs, Head of Earth Observation Science and Applications Department, opened the ceremony with his thoughts on how Earth-observing satellites have benefited humanity. Paying tribute to the first man in space in 1961, Briggs quoted Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first words spoken there: "‘I see Earth. It’s so beautiful.’ Indeed, observing Earth from space has truly revolutionized the way we view our home planet. With their unique global perspective, satellite systems offer incomparable advantages to help us better understand, manage and protect the Earth’s precious environment."
"The extraordinary cultural and natural diversity of the world is an important source of life and inspiration for humanity. Its preservation should be a responsibility shared by the whole international community," he added. The International Astronautical Federation will help UNESCO in expanding its growing network of space entities to assist developing countries in the monitoring and conservation of heritage with space technologies.