This picture of our blue planet has become so mundane that even grade school students would cease to be mesmerised by it. Thanks to daily real-time forecast on TV, the picture of mother earth has almost become ho-hum. Weather forecast has improved to a point where we take the forecast for granted. Without realising it, the technological spin-offs from Space Program (spinoff.nasa.gov) of the 60’s and 70’s vintage have become a ubiquitous part of our daily existence. These technological marvels have changed how we live, work, sleep and prioritise. All these have acted in concert to create opportunities and issues unimaginable decades ago. I chose this question because not many people recognise the boons and sometimes the banes these inventions have brought forth. I also believe that it is high time we pay tribute to the engineers, scientists and inventors whose ideas and technologies have bettered our material existence.
The launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 heralded the dawn of a new age. The very first launch has not only sparked the Space Race between the Soviet Union and United States, it has also made the deployment of military and commercial satellites into an almost routine task. Since Sputnik, satellites have advanced in sizes and varieties. Satellites are now capable of detecting and destroying incoming warheads, relaying thousands of phone calls, tracking changes in weather patterns, observing distant planets and galaxies, surveying and prospecting for natural resources, etc. (www.spacetoday.org, satellites.spacesim.org). With the aid of real-time weather forecasts, on-site reporting, satellites have grown so powerful that only 3 satellites (www.history.nasa.gov) are needed to have network coverage of the whole world.
These technologies have drastically altered the conduct of military campaigns, the dynamics of international affairs and the balance of power. Ubiquitous communication and instantaneous audio-visual transmission have changed the way we relate to each other and view the world around us. The satellites that we have in orbit today are equipped to observe distant planets, carry living organisms, telecommute, navigate and forecast weather (satellites.spacesim.org), these orbiting space probes have the ability broadcast images and videos of news or important events instantaneously to alert people all over the world.
Pioneers in this area of expertise have helped their nations advance in efficiency and power bringing economic benefits and military advantages. The various miniaturised instruments have brought mobility into the military amending military tactics (www.history.nasa.gov), eliminating the risk of injuries or death. This has assisted the domination of other nations. Satellites are also products that various companies privatise for research and experimental purposes (www.spacetoday.org). For example, a satellite can help track extra-terrestrial rocks and study them at a microscopic level, or perform different tasks in space to see the effects of zero gravity.
Finally, it can affect us individually, the speed that satellites relay incoming calls is so fast millions of people can communicate with their friends at the same time. This has allowed us as individuals to talk to people and notify them of events. Socialising has also become more efficient with the aid of satellites, before satellites, if you were to find someone, you would have to go to their home or workplace, but with the satellite in orbit you could just call that person and set up a meeting. Long distance calls have also benefited people and have granted us the ability to talk to people on the other side of the world.
Personally, I think Satellites are very useful, every time the news notifies the public about a typhoon, it is because of the equipment on the satellite. Windows are closed and locked tight, when the typhoon...