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COSPAR - Committe on Space Research

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Committe on Space Research


After the USSR launched its first Earth Satellite in 1957 and thereby opened the space age, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), now the International Council for Science, established its Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) during an international meeting in London in 1958. COSPAR's first Space Science Symposium was organized in Nice in January 1960.


COSPAR's objectives are to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research. These objectives are achieved through the organization of Scientific Assemblies, publications and other means.


In its first years of existence COSPAR, as an entity that ignores political considerations and views all questions solely from the scientific standpoint, played an important role as an open bridge between East and West for cooperation in space. When this role became less prominent with the decline in rivalry between the two blocks, COSPAR, as an interdisciplinary scientific organization, focused its objectives on the progress of all kinds of research carried out with the use of space means (including balloons).

COSPAR acts mainly

  • as a forum, with strong contributions from most countries engaged in space research, for the presentation of the latest scientific results, for the exchange of knowledge and also for the discussion of space research problems,
  • as a scientific committee advising, as required, the UN and other intergovernmental organizations on space research matters or on the assessment of scientific issues in which space can play a role,
  • as a panel for the preparation of scientific and technical standards related to space research,
  • Mas an entity promoting, on an international level, research in space, much of which has grown into large international collaborative programs in the mainstream of scientific research. COSPAR strives to promote the use of space science for the benefit of mankind and for its adoption by developing countries and new space-faring nations.

COSPAR Council and Bureau

COSPAR's highest body is the Council. The Council is comprised of the Committee's President, Representatives of Member National Scientific Institutions and International Scientific Unions, the Chairs of COSPAR Scientific Commissions, and the Chair of the Finance Committee. The Council meets at the Committee's biennial Scientific Assembly. Between Assemblies it is the Bureau which runs COSPAR on a day-to-day basis (see the COSPAR Charter and By-Laws for further details). The Bureau for the 2002 - 2006 term is composed as follows:

  • COSPAR President: Prof. R-M. Bonnet (France)
  • Vice-Presidents: Dr. W. Hermsen (Netherlands) and Dr. E.C. Stone (USA)
  • Members:
    o Prof. J. Audouze (France)
    o Dr. G. Horneck (Germany)
    o Prof. T. Kosugi (Japan)
    o Dr. M.E. Machado (Argentina)
    o Prof. G.G. Shepherd (Canada)
    o Prof. J.B. Zielinski (Poland)

Address: 51, bd de Montmorency 75016 Paris, France
Telephone: +33 1 45 25 06 79
Facsimile: +33 1 40 50 98 27
E-mail: cospar@cosparhq.org

Scientific Structure

Two primary types of scientific body are active in COSPAR: Scientific Commissions (SCs) and Panels. The rules governing these bodies are contained in the COSPAR By-Laws which are reproduced in the COSPAR Directory of Organization and Associates. In certain cases, the Bureau or the Scientific Commissions set up Sub-Commissions or Task Groups to address specific topics of scientific interest to Associates.
The general responsibilities of Scientific Commissions, as approved by the COSPAR Plenary, Bangalore, June 1979, and reconfirmed by the COSPAR Plenary, Budapest, June, 1980, are:

  1. To discuss, formulate and coordinate internationally cooperative experimental investigations in space;
  2. To encourage interactions between experimenters and theoreticians, in order to maximize space science results, especially interpretation arising out of analyses of the observations;
  3. To stimulate and coordinate the exchange of scientific results;
  4. To plan symposia and topical meetings for discussion of the results of space research, with an appropriate mixture of review and contributed papers;
  5. To carry out these tasks in the closest possible association with other organizations interested in these and related tasks;
  6. To select an editor for the "Advances in Space Research" Journal for each symposium and for each topical meeting organized by the Commission;
  7. To prepare a statement on recent scientific developments in the area of interest to the Commission for the COSPAR Report to the United Nations.

Scientific Commissions and Panels Relevant to ISPRS

Scientific Commission A - Sub-Commission A2:
Ocean Dynamics and Productivity

- Vincent, P. (France), 2002 - 2006
- Campbell, J. (USA), 2002 - 2006
- Kubota, M. (Japan), 2002 - 2006

Terms of Reference

This sub-commission intends to promote and encourage research activity and international cooperation in physical and bio-geochemical oceanography. Over the last 25 years, this domain has passed a major turning point thanks to the arrival of new measurement techniques on-board satellites. The global and accurate view of the ocean offered from space has permitted a better understanding of the variety of the involved mechanisms and their role in the earth environment. But studies and efforts are still needed to continue to improve our knowledge. Topics of particular interest are:

  • The determination of mass, heat transport and fluxes over the ocean and their interaction with atmosphere
  • The development of new space-based techniques to monitor surface and subsurface parameters of the ocean
  • The joint use of satellite, in-situ data with models to provide analysis and forecasts of the ocean in 3D
  • The preparation of future global ocean observation systems for monitoring the ocean
  • The carbon cycle in the ocean, the biological processes, and their impact on climate, biogeochemical cycles and productivity

Scientific Commissions and Panels Relevant to ISPRS

Scientific Commission A - Sub-Commission A3:
Land Processes and Morphology

- Tsuchiya, K. (Japan), 2002 - 2006
- Gobron, N. (France), 2002 - 2006
- Gupta, R.K. (India), 2002 - 2006

Terms of Reference

This Sub-Commission aims to develop a better understanding of biosphere, including artificial changes of the land surface (both physical and biological), and interactions of land surface with atmosphere, with due emphasis on the application of active and passive sensors' data having varied spatial and temporal resolutions acquired from satellites. The processes of interest include heat, water, and carbon balance. The Sub-Commission will remain abreast of the advances in and endorse and encourage calibration and inter- calibration of sensors for quantitative monitoring and quantifying changes in the Earth system.

Panel on Space Research in Developing Countries (PSRDC)

- Machado, M.E. (Argentina), 2004 - 2008
- Agarwal, G.S. (India), 2004 - 2008
- Xu, R.-L. (China), 2002 - 2006

Terms of Reference

The primary objectives of the Panel are: --to advise, plan, and in selected cases implement, even in a small measure, space activities that will meet the short and long term needs of developing countries, taking due note of their individual needs, constraints and requests; adequate care is taken to see that these efforts become self-sustaining in the long run; -- to enable the formation of a local critical mass of space scientists, and technologists of a high professional level, such that necessary expertise and manpower will be developed for increasing self-reliance, and to ensure the access of these experts to government decision makers; -- to arrange, generally through COSPAR and U.N. Agencies, cooperation with developed countries in a manner that enables the right kind of assistance and advice to be given to developing countries, recognising the special situation and long term interests of each country; and in general, enable the selection (for purchase or construction) and use of space technologies more appropriate to the local economic and social conditions; -- to help in increasing co-operation between developing countries. This will provide opportunities for gaining advantage from the experience of other developing countries; -- to assist, where necessary, the preparation of an approach and a strategy for a national plan on space research for any interested developing country; -- to provide liaison between COSPAR and developing countries which are still not members of COSPAR and arrange for support of the kind described above. This may lead to their becoming members of COSPAR and, more importantly, to the utilisation of space research in their own development efforts; and -- to promote a channel of communication between scientists of developing countries, and also between developing and developed countries, on space research.

Panel on Capacity Building (PCB)

- Willmore, A.P. (UK), 2002 - 2006
- Vogt, J. (Germany), 2002 - 2006

Terms of Reference

To advise COSPAR on its program of capacity building workshops. COSPAR has also run Colloquia and Co-Sponsored meetings in such topics as:

  • Data analysis and image processing techniques
  • Satellite data reduction and analysis techniques
  • Microsatellites as research tools
  • Space remote sensing of subtropical ocean

Publications have also been produced on some of these topics.

Future Meetings

Regional Workshop for African Oceanographers: Ocean Remote Sensing: a Tool for Ocean Science and Operational Oceanography, 19 - 30 September 2005, Rabat, Morocco. The 36th Scientific Assembly in Beijing from 16-23 July 2006