Full text: Special UNISPACE III volume

International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Vol. XXXII Part 7C2, UNISPACE III, Vienna. 1999 
“Environment and Remote Sensing for Sustainable Development” 
9:00 am -12:00 pm. 23 July 1999, VIC Room A 
Vienna, Austria 
Since the dawn of the space age, more titan forty years ago, remote sensing from space has been the purview of governmental 
organizations. Pursuits for nation security interests and scientific/civil applications have dominated the remote sensing market for 
decades. Changing world dynamics and associated geo-political landscapes; rapidly advancing (i.e. Moore’s law' of computer 
redoubling of performance to cost every 18-24 months) high speed, low cost commercial computer technology; and the ever 
increasing demand for content rich, digital Earth information has encouraged tire private sector to enter the domain of commercial 
high resolution Earth imaging from space. 
As the dawn of tire 21 st century approaches, so approaches the “Dawn of the Age of Transparency” foreseen by Sir Arthur Clarke. 
Clarke’s “PeaceSats” will materialize in the form of commercial high resolution imaging satellites, which are soon to be placed into 
operation by Space Imaging, Orblmage, Earthwatch, and others. Operating in low' Earth orbit, a constellation of satellites will 
provide a diverse set of high resolution geospatial data and information products and sendees to: digitally map the world, monitor the 
land cover & land use at the level of man’s scale and impact, and contribute to the peaceful-sustainable development of “planet 
Earth”. Without such critical and collateral new information sources, there will be a limitation to the rate at which knowledge 
develops of the micro and macro changes occurring in the world. The pressing demands of population growth, migration, 
consumption of resources, proliferating crises, and globalization of the economy create the need for more timely, accurate, cost 
effective information products to meet these challenges. 
Commercial (private) Earth imaging satellites soon will take their place along with national satellite systems. UNISPACE III occurs 
at a critical “defining moment” in the evolution of the use of space for peaceful purposes. Much has changed in the w'orld, politically, 
economically, and technologically since UNISPACE II in 1982. It is critical to realize that just as commercial comsats have risen to 
dominate national comsat systems so will be the case 25 years from now for remote sensing systems. This reality must be a (if not 
The) key consideration and deliberation at UNISPACE Iff. This paper helps frame the key issues for discussion and formulation into 
a set of codified recommendations that can be advanced to and approved by the General Assembly. 
Since 1900 the world population has tripled, now 
approaching 6 billion and potentially reaching 10 billion by 
2025. Our industrial production has increased 50-fold from 
1900, our consumption of fossil fuel has increased 30-fold, 
and our gross global production has increased over 20-fold. 
Today, we consume 40% of the world’s plant growth 
annually. Since 1950, over 3 million square kilometers of 
forestry have been destroyed and we continue to consume our 
forests at an annual rate approaching 200,000 square 
As the population continues to increase, urban and rural 
stresses increase. Human migration is increasing, south to 
north and rural to urban, changing the distribution of the 
world's population and demanding greater production of ever 
diminishing tillable lands. Observing the impact of man on 
his planet-home is an ever pressing need of our “Global 
Village”. Monitoring change, movement, and impact on the 
planet at the scale of a human, i.e. a meter, has become a 
critical need to provide time critical, spatially accurate, 
information content (i.e. spatially, spectrally, and 
radiometrically). Earth imagery will provide a new source of 
power to fuel the ever expanding information based global 
It is critical to realize and appreciate that information is 
developed only after data is collected. When UNISPACE II 
met in 1982, data collection from and data access to remote 
sensing satellites was a dominant theme. Appreciating the 
value of the new sources of Earth data, the United Nations 
Programs on Space Applications (UN-PSA) recommended 
the development of indigenous capability at the national level 
of space science and technology. Thus began a global 
process of national expenditures to develop educational 
systems and infrastructures to be able to access space and 
benefit from the associated space technologies in order to 
help solve earthly problems. 
Countries that could not allocate discretionary research and 
development funds to space endeavors would not be able to 
benefit from this space technology. Organizations like the 
UN began playing a role in encouraging developing countries 
to institute local programs for developing and using space 
technologies. Throughout the decade of the eighties and into 
the nineties numerous countries adopted the UN-PSA 
recommendations and initiated space programs. Resulting 
remote sensing systems were paid for by governments, and 
the price paid by the users was well below the real cost of 
production, if not “free”. The conventional “wisdom” 
developed that if the real cost was charged no one could 
afford to buy the data. Tins led to the assessment in 1992 at 
the 17°’ ISPRS Congress, panel on Remote Sensing at the 
Crossroads, that: “To become an economically viable 
enterprise the operation of a remote sensing system must 
generate products that are both needed and affordable. To be 
needed requires that it be user-driven. Globally, remote 
sensing has yet to achieve this status. Although producers of 
remote sensing products have consistendy demonstrated 
annual gains in their market strength, the limited appreciation 
and knowledge of remote sensing and its capabilities, 
particularly in the developing countries, preclude the wide 
spread demands for and applications of space-acquired 
images and digitized data.” 
This assessment seven years ago was veiy astute and signaled 
the change in the “paradigm” of thinking as to how the 
world’s complex problems can be most responsively 
addressed, i.e., focus on the end results desired, not on the 
means to the end. 
Today, at the UNISPACE III, we need to turn our attention 
toward information needs and redirect the UN-PSA away 
from the desire to create space technology. In its place the

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