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Copernicus is an European Earth Observation Programme previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The main objective of the Copernicus Programme is to provide data, information, services and knowledge that support Europe's goals regarding sustainable development and global governance of the environment.

The data Copernicus collects can be broadly classified as:

  • land, marine and atmosphere information;
    ensuring systematic monitoring and forecasting the state of the Earth's subsystems at regional and global levels;
  • climate change information;
    helping to monitor the effects of climate change, assessing mitigation measures and contributing to the knowledge base for adaptation policies and investments;
  • emergency and security information;
    providing support in the event of emergencies and humanitarian aid needs, in particular to civil protection authorities, also to produce accurate information on security related aspects (e.g. maritime surveillance, border control, global stability, etc.)

Copernicus uses a range of instruments to collect the Earth observation data. The data is collected from space (satellites), air (airborne instruments, balloons to record stratosphere data, etc.), water (floats, shipboard instruments, etc.) or land (measuring stations, seismographs, etc.). These facilities are called the Copernicus infrastructure component; non-space based installations in the Copernicus infrastructure component are generally referred to as "in situ component".

The European Space Agency is responsible for the space component, delivered by a series of 'Sentinel' spacecrafts. The Member States and the European Environment Agency are responsible for the in situ component.

The initiative runs until 2030.

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