In response to the global coronavirus outbreak, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have already begun to participate in collective efforts in their own way. The U.S. space agency has used its supercomputers to help research find a cure for Covid-19, while the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reports on the drop in pollution in Europe due to containment in many countries. But space agencies want to do more about the fight against the Covid-19. NASA and ESA have therefore decided to launch, separately, a call for proposals to either conduct research related to the pandemic or to help provide emergency services.
In its communiqué, ESA, which is launching this project called “Space in Response to the Covid-19 epidemic” in cooperation with the Italian government (Italy being one of the European countries most severely affected by the pandemic), invites companies to submit their ideas for deploying and demonstrating services to respond to the urgency facing Europe, and in particular Italy, as a result of the spread of coronavirus.” health and education.
Several examples are cited to provide an overview of proposals that could be of interest: remote diagnosis, initial treatment and follow-up of patients; Ensure the mental health and well-being of people confined to their homes training (in real time) of medical personnel using video conferencing systems; distance training and education for teachers and students etc.
The main objectives of this project are:
- To help citizens and health and education professionals living in Italy to face the challenges of the coronavirus epidemic;
- support the development and adoption of health and education services to help the Italian community respond to the epidemic;
- demonstrate the benefits of using space systems integrated with other innovative technologies in these extraordinary circumstances;
- to offer economic operators the opportunity to deploy and demonstrate space-based application solutions for the benefit of citizens, local authorities and businesses.”
Companies wishing to participate must first be based in the following Member States: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland. They will have to submit a first draft by April 20, and those selected to make a full proposal by May 14 will be announced the following week. The selected companies will receive funding of 2.5 million euros and free satellite capacity.
NASA seeks ‘quick response and new research’
For its part, NASA is looking for proposals “to make innovative use of NASA’s satellite data to address the environmental, economic and/or societal impacts of the pandemic on a regional to global scale,” reports Spacenews.com. “We’re going to be awarding awards very quickly,” Sandra Cauffman, acting director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Department, told an online conference on March 31, 2020. They will be awarded within 10 days of submitting the proposals, she said.
Of particular interest to the U.S. space agency is the pre- and post-pandemic data that had to apply partial or total containment measures, which resulted in reduced movement and industrial activities and thus polluting emissions. This data collected could represent a unique opportunity to better understand the effects of human activities on the environment.
In addition, on April 1, 2020, the U.S. space agency launched a call for ideas from its employees on how the agency can contribute to collective efforts to combat Covid-19. Through an internal crowdsourcing platform ,”NASA@Work” employees are invited to submit their ideas for the development of personal protective equipment and artificial ventilation devices, as well as for predicting the spread of the disease and its effects on society. Other ideas are also welcome such as telemedicine applications or lessons learned from long-duration spaceflight that can help to respond in some way to this epidemic.
NASA and ESA’s activities have already been severely disrupted due to the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. On the U.S. side, for example, construction and testing of the launcher and capsule that will be used for the manned flight of the lunar Program Artemis scheduled for 2024, as well as those concerning the future James Webb telescope had to be suspended. On the European side, several space missions have been placed on secure standby to reduce the number of people present at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. The vast majority of their personnel are in telework, except for those in charge of critical tasks including maintaining spacecraft operations in real time.