NASA is working with two of its largest global space agency partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), on a combined effort to collect satellite-based Earth observation data and provide it via a dashboard in order to help monitor the impacts of COVID-19. The dashboard combines data collected by Earth observation satellites operated by each of the agencies, which monitor photographic, air quality, temperature, climate and other indicators.
The COVID-19 Earth Observation Data provides views into changes globally in water quality, climate change, economic activity and also agriculture. It’s intended to provide policymakers, health authorities, city planners and others with key information that they can use to study both short- and long-term impacts of the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis, which is definitely changing the way that cities and the people within them work and live.
The agencies involved formed a project in April for the purposes of building this, so it came together rather quickly for a cross-agency, international collaboration. Data so far indicates significant changes, including positive environmental ones around air and water quality due to decreased activity — but also significant slowdowns in key economic activity including shipping activity in ports, the number of cars in shopping mall parking lots, and more.
While the project is specifically intended to provide data around COVID-19 and its impacts, and the current plan only includes the pandemic within its scope, on a call discussing the initiative, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher said that the agencies are already considering whether to extend he dashboard beyond the scope of COVID-19 as it could be useful in addressing any number of global-scale problems that we collectively face.