Many of NASA’s most iconic spacecraft towered over the engineers who built them: think Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini or Galileo — all large machines that could measure up to a school bus.
But in the past two decades, mini-satellites called CubeSats have made space accessible to a new generation. These briefcase-sized boxes are more focused in their abilities and have a fraction of the mass — and cost — of some past titans of space.
In May, engineers will be watching closely as NASA launches its first pair of CubeSats designed for deep space. The twin spacecraft are called Mars Cube One, or MarCO, and were built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Put in place by ESA and France’s CNES space agency, the Climate Cube is displaying the essential contribution of space and its applications on studying climate change, ahead of the COP21 climate change conference to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December.
With a huge screen on one of its 7 m sides, the Climate Cube focuses on how vital satellites are for understanding climate change, and how space is playing a major role in climate research and climate change mitigation.
While a series of videos on space and climate runs continuously on the screen, the other three sides offer an overview of European satellite missions measuring the ‘essential climate variables’ – 26 out of 50 are measurable only from space.
The Cube also features a high-resolution satellite image of Paris and surroundings, captured by ESA’s Sentinel-2A satellite.
The Climate Cube is standing on the Champs-Élysées, in front of the Grand Palais, 17—27 October. The nearest metro station is Place Clemenceau metro Champs-Elysées – Clemenceau.
About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 21 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 19 are Member States of the EU.
One other Member State of the EU, Hungary, has signed the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention and, upon ratification, will soon become the 22nd ESA Member State.
ESA has established formal cooperation with seven other Member States of the EU.
Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.