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TIROS-1: First weather satellite 50 years ago

Fifty years ago, on April 1, 1960, the first weather satellite was launched from the United States. Called TIROS-1, the Earth observation satellite saw a typhoon forming east of Australia. Today, NASA and NOAA celebrate the milestone in the history of weather observation from space.

The April 1, 2010 NASA media release “NASA and NOAA mark 50 years of weather watching from space” states that “Fifty years ago, the world’s first weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., opening a new and exciting dimension in weather forecasting.”

Leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hail the event as the beginning of modern-day weather forecasting from space.

According to the NASA article “The first image from the Television Infrared Observation Satellite, known as TIROS-1, was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over America.”

And, “An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon approximately 1,000 miles east of Australia.”

The TIROS-1 polar-orbiting satellite was launched at 6:40 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on April 1, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the United States.

Its nearly circular orbit ranged from 435.5 miles (700.9 kilometers ) to 468.3 miles (753.6 kilometers) above the surface of Earth.

Although TIROS-1, at only 270 pounds of mass, only was operational for less than three months, its ability to image atmospheric conditions (with two onboard cameras and two video recorders) from its perch in orbit above Earth proved that space-based satellites were excellent ways to make weather forecasting more accurate.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden stated in recognition of the historic TIROS-1 accomplishment: “TIROS-1 started the satellite observations and interagency collaborations that produced vast improvements in weather forecasts, which have strengthened the nation. It also laid the foundation for our current global view of Earth that underlies all of climate research and the field of Earth system science.”

Please read the NASA article, mentioned earlier, in more detail for additional information on TIROS-1 and the history of weather forecasting from space.

To learn more about the history of weather satellites, please go to the following websites: NASA’s Weather Satellites and NOAA’s NOAA’s Environmental Satellites: A History.