Rebirth for Earth Online
On 27 April, the old Earth Online website retired, to make space for this brand new portal—still intending to serve Earth Observation scientists and experts worldwide.
Earth Online was first released some 30 years ago, in the 1990s (at that time entitled ESA Earth Observation Guide & Directory Service). It was among the first ESA websites on the net, and has been the entry point for scientific-technical information on Earth Observation (EO) activities, carried out by ESA.
The website contains information dating back to ESA’s first EO programme - ERS (European Remote Sensing); on currently operational missions including CryoSat, SMOS and Swarm, through to the latest missions under development, such as Biomass, EarthCARE and FLEX.
Aimed at Earth observation data users, but addressing organisations and individuals with a specific interest in EO as well, Earth Online also provides the latest technical news on ESA and Third Party Missions (TPM), workshops and many more topics. Through agreements with other space agencies, ESA offers data products from over 40 international missions in the TPM programme.
Earth Online provides a vast amount of content, collected over some two decades, including: detailed technical information on EO missions; information on satellites and sensors; EO data products and services; online resources such as catalogues and a library; applications of satellite data and access to promotional satellite imagery.
It also provides access to TellUS, a service management portal and platform for ESA's Earth observation payload data users, which allow users to explore ESA's Earth Observation Knowledge Base, request services and report issues to ESA's Earth Observation Help and Order Desk (EOHelp), as well as query their status.
Among its many services is also EO-CAT—the Next Generation Earth Observation system, designed to manage end-user Earth Observation services. Using the Generic Catalogue Services, one can browse the metadata and images of Earth Observation data, acquired by various satellites.
Since January 2012, it has also integrated all information related to the Principal Investigators (PI) community – those scientists who were first designated to study how to best use the data and their applications– including a workflow management component (PI workflow) used for processing special requests for access to Earth Observation data, as well as for helping disseminate research results based on those data.
In addition, the website provides details of airborne campaigns that have been conducted since 1998, many of which support the development of future missions or the validation of instruments carried aboard operating satellites.
Mission managers, data users and the web management team realised it was time to bring a fresh view and novelty to the website, and so for the past two years this team has been working hard to come up with the best possible solution.
With a mobile responsive design, this new Earth Online presents a straightforward navigation system and interconnection between content.
Central to this new design is a powerful search functionality. With information dating back 30 years, the aim is to make it easier for all to find the resources they seek. The result is a simplified navigation, which primarily prioritises the data, news and missions.
Within a few clicks, you can find what you need either using a text search, or a series of filters that narrow down your search results by thematic areas, missions and instruments.
Another enhancement in the navigation involves interconnecting the contents of the website where relevant. Through mission pages, for example, you can find information about the mission, followed by available data, together with the tools you may use to visualise or exploit that data.
This interconnection also extends to the integration of another website, the Sensor Performance, Products and Algorithms (SPPA) website. The SPPA website is dedicated to providing information about quality control, calibration and validation of ESA's EO instruments, along with related events and activities.
With a natural connection between the two sites, the SPPA website is now part of the new Earth Online, and the information about the instruments has been merged with the relevant pages, further easing access to the relevant resources.
The objective and continuous views of our planet, supplied by satellite images and data, provide scientists and decision makers with the information they need to understand and protect our environment. This has and will continue to be the main goal for this new website.
"We can proudly say that ESA shall continue to share a wealth of data and information in Earth Observation with its worldwide users, through our now upgraded legacy website - Earth Online," states ESA's Common Services Web Team.