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This Saturday, politicians, astronauts and sundry space experts will mark the beginning of Earth and Space Week in Europe.

Organised by the European Commission and the European Space Agency, the week centres around three main events: the third Earth Observation Summit, a free exhibition aimed at raising public awareness of Earth and Space and an international conference on cooperation in space.

The Earth Observation Summit began in 2003 as a world forum to share scientific data about our planet and to influence and inform policy.

Ministers are expected to formally approve a ten-year implementation plan for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems at next week's summit in Brussels.

Events will actually kick off today (Wednesday) when Commissioner Janez Potocnik inaugurates the Earth Space Sphere. This is a 20m diameter screen that will display images of our planet, the solar system and the rest of the universe, from tonight, until Space Week ends on 20 February.

On 11 February, Prince Philippe of Belgium, Commissioner Günter Verheugen and Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA's director general, open the Earth and Space exhibition, and will then present prizes to the winners of a pan-European children's competition to design a flag for Earth.

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