Ordinary Earthbound cameras can use a nice low-tech method for setting white balance: hold up a white sheet of paper and shoot it. Now a team of British scientists are white-balancing satellite cameras that photograph the Earth for the first time, using an entire Turkish lake.
On December 6, 1957, hot on the heels of Sputnik, the United States Navy readied the first American satellite, Vanguard, for launch. The grapefruit-sized device lofted 3 feet from Earth before it exploded. Press and public jeered, dubbing it "Flopnik." ("The exact cause is classified," says the crisp narrator in a vintage video [below] of the attempt.) A red-faced U.S. government redoubled their efforts. Within a year and a half, Vanguard's replacement took the first measurements of Earth's upper atmosphere and its successor, Vanguard II, the first scan of Earth's clouds.
The nation's satellites document environmental threats around the globe. So why is the future of earth observation in peril?
By Laura AllenPosted 07.02.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
The American Association for the Advancement of Science calls it a crisis. Atmospheric scientist Timothy L. Killeen, the president of the American Geophysical Union, says it "could harm our ability to protect our citizens." We call it plain old scary. It's the endangered future of our nation's arsenal of Earth-observing satellites, the 42 instruments that enable scientists to monitor the planet. Satellite images and colorful data sets like the ones on the following pages help researchers track killer hurricanes, plan conservation efforts, manage water resources, and predict glacial melting.