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Space research provides endless possibilities

The Minister for Higher Education and Science Sofie Carsten Nielsen's speech at Swarm Science Meeting 19 June 2014 in Copenhagen.

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Danish space research with history

It is a pleasure to welcome you all.

And it is an honour to open the third SWARM science meeting.

My predecessor has spoken enthusiastically about how he witnessed the successful launch of the SWARM satellites in a live transmission at the Planetarium last November.

The scientific result of the SWARM mission will be an extremely accurate mapping of the Earth’s magnetic field.

It is an impressive mission. And I think that Denmark has a historic predisposition to space research and magnetism.

The many experiments of Danish physicist H.C. Ørsted at the University of Copenhagen led to his discovery of electromagnetism in 1820. And back in the 16 century, the Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, was setting new standards for precise and comprehensive astronomic and planetary observations.

It is worth mentioning that Tycho Brahe lived in pre-telescope times and made his observations with the naked eye.

Danish space research is respected, also nowadays.We have world-class research fields.

This is clear when we see Danish research institutes and companies being invited to take part in satellite missions time and time again.

There is a high regard for Danish researchers, engineers and technicians internationally.

The extreme requirements for space projects force us to be extremely ambitious and innovative. And that approach helps us to reach new heights in all areas.

Space travel is our journey of discovery.

To achieve new realisation and knowledge we have constantly explored the unknown. And thank goodness we have. Because it has brought us to where we are today.

As well as new technology, the space age has given us new realisation and knowledge about distant galaxies, planets in our own solar system and the unique climate of our planet.

Space research is not just about discovering new knowledge about space.

Much of it is also devoted to exploring the Earth. And this has direct influence on our everyday lives. Even if we do not realise it.

For example we use satellites every day to surf the internet, watch TV, chat on the phone and in our cars’ navigation.

Space research is perhaps - if you will allow me a short detour - also somewhat about discovering and exploring things about ourselves as humans.

About our limits, but also about our great abilities if we set our minds to it.

Six American flags on the moon as an everlasting proof of government and researchers’ ability to overcome extremely difficult challenges.

At least, I often say, when people around me say: “it cannot be done”.

I reply “if we can put a man on the moon” or “if we can discover space” – then perhaps it can be done! 

That is probably also why I continue to find this area of research so extremely fascinating.

It inspires me on so many levels.

From Ørsted to SWARM

SWARM is the first ESA satellite mission, proposed and scientificly led by Danes. SWARM was sent up exactly 20 years after Denmark decided to fund the Ørsted satellite.

The Ørsted satellite was a good example of successful collaboration between universities, business and public authorities.

And it was a ground-breaking project that put Denmark on the map of countries that stand out in space and satellite technology.

The Ørsted satellite had a planned lifespan of 14 months but as we all know, it is still providing data after more than 14 years in space. Clearly a high quality satellite we launched!

SWARM is a direct result of and a follow-up to the Ørsted mission.

As you all know, SWARM will be able to map the Earth’s magnetic field with a never before seen precision.

The Earth’s magnetic field is dynamic but there are signs that it is becoming weaker.  

Some researchers interpret that to mean that we are facing a pole shift – where the magnetic North and South poles switch places.

I am not sure I can fully comprehend what that means! As I understand, the effect of this for life on Earth is not absolutely clear.

But there is no doubt that monitoring and understanding the Earth’s magnetic field is more important than ever.  

International space research

Space research is no simple thing.

It is extremely complicated. It has long time

And a project like SWARM is too large for Denmark to carry out alone.

But with Danish membership of ESA it has been possible to realise the project. Space research is international.

This is also reflected in the broad international participation here today.

Danish companies and research often have close international cooperation which makes them natural participants in consortia for developing instruments or defining missions. SWARM is an excellent example of this.

The research and business opportunities include design and development of technology and software for instruments as well as using data from space missions.

Instrument development and participating in instrument development consortia are now a primary prerequisite for scientific influence on many space missions.

SWARM is again a perfect example of this. And of course - very sophisticated technology is needed to run a mission like SWARM.

But to rephrase the famous words of President Kennedy, who started the-man-on-the-moon-project: Ask not what we can do for space technology. Ask what space technology can do for science and our knowledge of the Earth.

Endless possibilities

As I understand, SWARM is already a success story.

In the first six months the SWARM satellites have already gathered high quality, extremely detailed data.

And I believe that ESA made a wise decision in providing all interested researchers with access to the magnetic data from SWARM.

This data is valuable to researchers around the world, who will study it and model the composition of the Earth’s core.

And it is quite sensational that by sending satellites hundreds of kilometres into the atmosphere, we can increase our knowledge and understanding of how the Earth works. Space research provides endless possibilities.

Who knows what incredible discoveries are waiting just around the corner? Who knows what revolutionary technologies space research will create?

I look very much forward to the new knowledge and exciting discoveries that await us.

Thank you.

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Ministry of Higher Education and Science
last modified June 25, 2024