Farming is not something most people would immediately associate with space exploration - unless you're thinking of Matt Damon's ill fated potato crop - but monitoring crops from space is actually one of the most important uses of space: Satellite data is used for everything from predicting draught conditions to showing which areas are producing the best (or worst) yields, and for working out why.
A new service called TalkingFields, developed with the assistance of ESA since 2010, aims to help farmers get the best from their land while cutting the environmental costs. Satellite data are fine-tuned to the needs of individual farmers by combining optical satellite images with information from ground sensors, satnav and sophisticated crop growth models. It's not landing on a comet, or finding water on Mars, but this is just one of the ways that using space as a resource improves fundamental things about life back here on Earth.
|Above: These are space potatoes. Honestly.
"Agriculture is becoming a data-driven business," explains Heike Bach, CEO at Vista, the company behind TalkingFields. The satellite data also helps minimise environmental damage:. The runoff from overuse of nitrogen and phosphate can cause ground water pollution and vast seasonal algal blooms in the oceans. "We're targeting zero runoff," says Dr Bach. "Minimising the environmental cost of farming in this way is a real benefit to society."
ESA's Tony Sephton said: "There are existing services variously using Earth observation data, satellite navigation, farm management software and crop models, but TalkingFields combines them all."
ESA's LISA mission lauinches to hunt for ripples in space time
ESA's LISA mission launched today, on a mission to test the technology astrophysicists hope to use to hunt down gravitational waves, one of the last unconfirmed predictions of General Relativity.
Above: The LISA mission launches to it's new base at the L1 gravitational plateau. Courtesy of ESA.
Elsewhere in the Unverse:
Neutron stars, hypernova, and gamma ray bursts all linked
It turns out that the insanely swirling innards of a supernova link all three .
Artist Jay Simmons presents a timeline of the Universe:
Click on the image to get the full szed version, and get your scrolling finger limbered up - this will test it.