The Living Planet Programme is the European Space Agency (ESA) program and is managed by the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate. It has two classes of observation missions: Earth Explorers and the Earth Watch.
European Space Agency is a world-leader in Earth observation. Up until now, nine missions were designed to explore the Earth and are on the process of being implemented. Currently, three mission concepts compete to become the tenth, and the ESA announced that it would soon be searching for Earth Explorer 11.
Earth Explorers missions are part of the Future Earth Observation Programme, aka FutureEo. The goals are the human impact on the environment, climate research, innovative space technologies, and a better understanding of our planet and of the interactions that bind the system as a whole.
Most Significant ESA Missions to Observe the Earth
Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE)
Launched on 17 March 2009, GOCE is the first satellite of the ESA’s Living Planet Programme. Its mission is to map Earth’s gravity field in as much detail as possible. It already improved the known data about the accuracy and spatial resolution of the geoid.
This program also uses a satellite, but its focus is the polar ice. After a failed launch in 2005, a successful one was done in April 2010. The low orbit satellite monitors the variations in the extent and thickness of the ice sheets. Its goal is to help with the predictions of future sea-level rise caused by the thinning of the ice sheets.
Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS)
A satellite, just like the rest of the Earth observation missions, but its earthly designation is to monitor water cycle and climate that also helps weather forecasting and the accumulation of snow and ice monitorization. It was launched in November 2009.
Launched in November 2013, Swarm is a spacecraft designated to make scientists understand how the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with other physical features of Earth. It does so by providing measurements of the direction, strength, and variations of the magnetic field. The insight it gives has a significant impact on a better understanding of how weather and climate are affected by atmospheric processes and ocean circulation patterns.
Atmospheric Dynamics Mission Aeolus (ADM-Aeolus)
The satellite is the first to make global a wind-component-profile observation. It means that it can observe wind’s behavior form the surface up 30 km high in the stratosphere. Weather forecasting is the primary beneficiary of Aeolus’ observations. It was launched in August 2018.