Why GMES / why Copernicus?

The idea was to use "Copernicus" as an idol: GMES  aims at "observing our planet for a safer world". As astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) turned that time's world view into a heliocentric perspective, GMES likewise shifts our 'loco'-centric view to a global one. In other words, it promotes an attitude of global concern while respecting local implications and responsibilities.

GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is designed as conjoint initiative of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC). The acronym describes what it aims at:

  • Utilizing space infrastructure to monitor our world in terms of both environmental integrity and human security and
  • Earth observation (EO) technology to provide policy-relevant, conditioned information and operational services.

Making this ambitious goal a working scenario, satellite data are to be complemented by ground sensors and in-situ measurements. For making it reality, those who are supposed to use the services, must qualify them as valid.

On its 10th anniversary, during the GMES Forum in Lille on Oct 16, 2008, the GMES programme received its new name Kopernikus  [after 5 years of terminological discourse the official spelling is now: Copernicus]. Why such an endeavor? Various reasons ... one being that an acronym like 'GMES' is difficult to keep in mind (especially for the average citizen as the ultimate user and school children as the future users), another one to highlight its parallel character to satellite navigation system GALILEO as the second (or first?) flagship of Europe's space-based technology.