earth online
  • News
  • ESA Earth observation archives...

ESA Earth observation archives preserved in Arctic vault

13 Sep 2023

Arctic world archive
The Arctic World Archive

ESA has added to its store of Earth observation records housed in a secure vault in the Norwegian Arctic, ensuring that knowledge from a crucial chapter in European remote sensing history is safeguarded for future generations.

Operated by information storage firm Piql, the Arctic World Archive vault is located deep within a repurposed mineshaft on the island of Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago.

Mirko Albani and Antonio Flati at the Arctic World Archive
Mirko Albani and Antonio Flati at the Arctic World Archive

This remote facility aims to preserve important aspects of humankind's cultural and scientific heritage long into the distant future.

Piql first encodes information – such as music, images or text – onto specially designed reels of film before they are transported through the mineshaft and placed into storage.

Buried deep within the permafrost, the vault naturally maintains the cold, dry and dark conditions required to preserve samples for long periods. It is also invulnerable to hacking attempts and resilient to potential global crises.

As a result, Piql expects records to survive unscathed for more than 500 years.

Following ESA's first deposit in 2019, the agency has now added data acquired by ESA's European Remote Sensing (ERS), Envisat and GOCE Earth observation satellites, together with a thorough description of the missions' objectives and achievements, to the Arctic World Archive vault.

ESA heritage records added to the Arctic World Archive
ESA heritage records added to the Arctic World Archive

These resources capture an important era in European Earth observation history that transformed how the planet is continuously monitored from space.

In addition to Earth observation records, sample data from ESA's first deep space mission – named Giotto – featuring a comet nucleus were also encoded onto Piql film and placed in the archive.

ESA's collaboration with the Arctic World Archive forms part of the agency-wide Heritage Space programme, which ensures the preservation, discovery and accessibility of huge amounts of data and knowledge generated by ESA programmes and space missions over the past 50 years.

Mirko Albani, Heritage Space Programme Manager at ESA, said, "The aim of our programme is to ensure ESA maintains its capability to look back in time and to support research and operational activities requiring the availability of long-term datasets – like, for example, climate change monitoring.

"We continuously monitor and evaluate emerging preservation methods, and the Arctic World Archive combined with Piql's storage technology immediately attracted our interest, due to its capacity to ensure the long-term preservation and availability of sample data for future generations."



Subscribe to our newsletter to receive highlights of recent news from Earth Online

Cookies & Privacy

We use cookies which are essential for you to access our website and to provide you with our services and allow us to measure and improve the performance of our website. Please consult our Cookie Notice for further information or to change your preferences.