Eyes in the

Meteorologists have always known that they would have a much easier time forecasting the weather if they could see approaching weather systems. In the early 20th century, they addressed this problem by sending observational data via telegraph to stations downstream to advise them of heavy rain, snow, or wind en route. Knowing the upstream weather did not guarantee it would not change before arrival. Forecasters on coastlines were blind to weather moving in from the oceans because there were no observers sitting in the middle of the water radioing in observations.

Attempts to change this situation began in the late 1920s. The rocket expert Robert Goddard (1882-1945) launched an instrument packet containing a barometer, a thermometer, and a camera in 1929. Advances in rocketry during World War II led to the launching of more sophisticated meteorological equipment that produced the first composite photographs of clouds taken from the top of the atmosphere in 1949. These photographs were interesting and provided enticing evidence of their usefulness, but they reached forecasters too late to be operationally useful. The introduction of weather radar after World War II provided a better long-distance "eye" for meteorologists, but radar only "sees" a relatively few miles away. What was needed was a way to see an entire region of the Earth. Meteorologists needed weather satellites.

With the launch of the USSR's Sputnik in 1957 during the IGY, the race was on to launch additional artificial satellites into space. Weather forecasting would be an obvious beneficiary of such technology if scientists could attach sensors to collect and transmit data or photographs to meteorologists. The United States launched its first weather satellite, TIROS-1, on April 1, 1960. The TIROS series satellites took pictures with a television camera and transmitted them to a receiving station. These early photographs were not operationally useful because the satellite's spin axis pointed out into space. This meant the photographs included a lot of black space along with a few clouds. Once engineers

MILESTONES

1962

1963

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