They Used To Get Everyone’s Undivided Attention, But Now…
It wasn’t that long ago, at least to someone like me, that the space-race began. As I have discussed in previous column articles it all began when the Russians (then the Soviet Union) sent up the first astronaut (they called them Cosmonauts) Yuri Gagarin for one orbit of the earth April 12, 1961. From the very beginning of the United State’s entrance into this race the public couldn’t get enough of it. On the Network News broadcasts we watched film of the successful launches and then they were televised live. The public couldn’t get enough of our Mercury-7 astronauts and their exploits.
The Gemini series of flights put two astronauts in space ending the solitary flights of the Mercury program. Again the public showed interest in each launch and splash-down.
That excitement started to wane during the Apollo flights and when Apollo 13 was launched the news media pretty much ignored the live broadcast from space when the astronauts gave a tour of their spacecraft. Interest peaked, however, after the explosion in space that crippled their craft and not only ended their chances of landing on the Moon, but nearly ended their lives. Once again the public couldn’t get enough information concerning the efforts to get the three astronauts safely back to Earth.
There weren’t too many missions after that and again interest in the space program dropped off. As I explained in a previous article, the Skylab space laboratory brought back the public’s interest in our people living and working in space.
The Space Shuttle program really grabbed everyone’s attention and we again saw live broadcasts from Earth orbit. Since the final shuttle journey the astronauts have to utilize Russian space vehicles to go to and from the International Space Station. It seems that the public and the media report on our space activities and the days of everyone sitting in front of the TV screen anxiously watching the launches. A recent special launch was planned and I’ll bet you didn’t even know about it or for that matter care about it.
That brings me to the point of this article. A revolutionary weather satellite, GOES-R atop an Atlas V 451 rocket, was launched into space at 6:42 PM EDT (3:42 PM PDT) on November 19, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It was supposed to launch November 4th 2016 at 5:40 PM EDT (2:40 PDT), but it had to be postponed. Here’s what the launch looked like.
What makes this satellite so special? If you regularly read this column you read the article titled “You Know Generation-X, Now Meet Generation-R.” Just in case you missed it here is why this is such an important step in weather forecasting and the public safety:
Quoting NOAA “The GOES-R Series will significantly improve the detection and observation of environmental phenomena that directly affect the public safety, protection of property and our nation’s economic health and prosperity. The satellites will provide advanced imaging with increased spatial resolution and faster coverage for more accurate forecasts, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity.”
From the perspective of someone who likes to have the latest and best information on which to base a weather forecast I feel this technology will give us the possibility of even more accurate forecasts especially when lives and property are at stake.
Again from my previous article: Here is a more in-depth look at the products that will be available when the GOES-R satellite is operational. NOAA breaks down the products into 4 categories: 1) User Systems – “GOES Data will be used in real time for critical weather forecasting and warning applications.” Want to know more? 2) Proving Ground – “The GOES-R Proving Ground facilities research-to-operations engaging the forecast and warning community in pre-operational demonstration and evaluation of simulated GOES-R products.” Want to know more? 3) Data Products – “The GOES-R Series will make available 34 atmospheric, land, ocean, solar and space weather products for the forecasting and warning community.” Want to know more? 4) Ground System – “Ground support is critical to the GOES-R Series mission. NOAA has developed a state-of-the-art ground system to receive data from the GOES-R spacecraft and generate real-time GOES-R products.” Want to know more?
It has taken up to a year of testing for other weather satellites before they were actually put into service. They run tests on the sensors and make sure that it can hold an orbital distance above the earth. After all of those tests are complete they adjust the satellite’s final orbital position.
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