Satellites are largely responsible for the quality of life humans now experience on Earth.
These man-made objects put into orbit often affect our lives without us realizing it. Satellites make us safer, provide modern conveniences and broadcast entertainment.
According to UNOOSA there have been 8,378 satellites launched into space since the Russians placed Sputnik 1 into orbit Oct. 4, 1957. Currently there are 4,994 satellites still in orbit. The benefits of satellite technology are considerable. Some of the jobs satellites do include:
Navigation — Satellite-based navigation systems like GPS enable anyone with a handheld receiver to determine their location to within a few meters. GPS locators are increasingly included in in-car direction services and allow car-share services like Zipcar to locate their cars.
GPS-based systems are used by civilians and the military for navigation on land, sea and air, and are crucial in situations like a ship making a difficult course in a harbor in bad weather or troops lost in unfamiliar territory, where other navigation tools may not exist.
Weather – Meteorologists would not have the ability to visualize weather on a global scale if not for satellites. They are especially useful in allowing meteorologists to follow volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and even burning gas in oil fields
Safety – Satellites monitor ocean and wind currents as well as forest fires and airborne pollution. They can also help locate people in distress in remote regions. Essentially, Earth observation satellites help organize emergency responders and environment cleanup.
Television — Satellites send television signals directly to homes, but they also are the backbone of cable and network TV. These satellites send signals from a central station that generates programming to smaller stations that send the signals locally via cables or the airwaves.
At the scene news broadcasts, whether live reporting on a vote at the Capitol or from the scene of a traffic accident, are sent from the field to the studio via satellite.
Space Science – The most interesting phenomena are best studied at frequencies that are only accessible from space. This is why satellite telescopes have been critical to understanding pulsars and black holes as well as measuring the age of the universe. Some would argue that the Hubble Space Telescope is the most valuable astronomical tool ever built.
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