CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – On April 1, 1960, NASA launched the very first weather satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 17A at 7:40 a.m.
Although it happened on April Fool’s Day, this launch was no joke. The TIROS program became an important experiment in the new satellite and technology era.
The initial goal of launching TIROS-1 was to see if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. Since satellites were new technology at the time, the effectiveness of having a satellite observing the Earth was still unknown territory.
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This program was also used to test various design issues for spacecrafts, like instrumentation, data collection and the parameters at which they were operational.
The goal was weather-orientated with safety in mind. Scientists were asking, ‘Would information received from imagery and data collection be useful to make safety decisions here on Earth?’ Basically, they were concerned with if the information would come in handy when making decisions in impending weather situations like hurricanes.
The first job for the TIROS program was to develop a meteorological satellite information system. The information received from space would benefit weather forecasts on Earth. This was successful and forecasts today still use satellite data to increase accuracy and confidence in local day-to-day forecasting as well as to make emergency decisions like evacuation measures during major events like hurricanes. Continuous coverage of the Earth’s weather began the following year and the information was used by meteorologists all over the world.
Technology has really come a long way over the years.
Not only are the images better quality, but the information is a vital part of weather forecasting. The latest satellite GOES-18 over the Pacific and the GOES-16 over parts of North America and the Atlantic Ocean are now providing up-to-the-minute updates with vital data used in forecasting.
This technology also allows meteorologists to studying life-saving data, like rapid intensification of hurricanes, which results in better forecasts and planning, ultimately leading to a reduced number of casualties during a catastrophic event.
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