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