The 2002 CEOS Handbook explores the need for information on our planet. Information which is essential for making decisions, defining policies, and implementing management strategies to ensure mankind has a sustainable future on Earth – resistant to impacts of man-made climate change, population growth, and increasing development.

It explains the important role of Earth observation satellite programmes in fulfilling those information needs. It presents the current status and plans for future Earth observation satellite programmes of governments world-wide, through their national and regional space agencies, and describes how the data and information which they supply relate to world-wide needs for information on Earth system processes – in support of significant objectives of national and international concern.

The role of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), as the body with responsibility for co-ordination of these satellite programmes, is explained, including the CEOS role within the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership (IGOS-P), to ensure that future space-based observing systems and Earth-based observing systems will be suitably harmonised to address the most critical requirements.

It is hoped that this report will prove to be a valuable source of information concerning the possible application and value of the data and information from Earth observation satellites. It should be of interest to a wide range of groups: those with responsibility for national/international development policy; those responsible for programmes with requirements for observations to enable understanding of our environment and its processes; and those needing information for decision-making in many socio-economic sectors.

It is further hoped that this report will be of educational value, helping to explain some of the techniques and technologies underlying satellite Earth observation and making the subject as accessible as possible to the lay-person who would like to investigate further.

As an up-to-date and comprehensive compilation of CEOS agency plans, the report provides a handy reference source of information on current and future civil Earth observation programmes. It also provides details of points of contact within CEOS and lists relevant internet information sources for those requiring more information.

Part I of the Handbook (Global environmental issues & the role of Earth observations) provides in its first section (CEOS) an explanation of CEOS. It then discusses global environmental issues in its second section (21st century Earth: Our environment) and the role of Earth observations in its third section (The importance of Earth observations). Future challenges are discussed in the last section.

Part II presents five case studies to illustrate the use of Earth observation satellites supporting the provision of information for global governance.

Part III of the Handbook summarises Earth observation satellite capabilities and plans, including a description of the various types of satellite missions and instruments and their applications (Capabilities of Earth observation satellites). For those interested in particular measurements (eg of ‘ozone’ or ‘vegetation’), the following section (Earth observation plans: by measurement) provides details of 26 different parameters and the plans for their observation during the coming decades. The last two sections contain catalogues of satellite missions and instruments respectively.

The annexes include:

  • Further information on CEOS
  • CEOS involvement in IGOS
  • Abbreviations
  • Image credits