No joke: 1st weather satellite launched into space on April Fool’s Day

NASA’s TIROS project also tested various design issues for spacecraft

The first photo of Earth from a weather satellite, taken by the TIROS-1 satellite on April 1, 1960. (NASA, NASA)

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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Technicians work on the TIROS-1 satellite. (NASA)

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.

The first photo of Earth from a weather satellite, taken by the TIROS-1 satellite on April 1, 1960. (NASA)

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 composite color full-disk visible image of the Western Hemisphere was captured from NOAA GOES-16 satellite at 1:07 pm EST on Jan. 15, 2017 and created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the satellite's sophisticated Advanced Baseline Imager. The image, taken from 22,300 miles above the surface, shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. (NASA)

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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About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.