Earth From Space 1960: 53 Years Since First Picture Taken By Nasa's TIROS-1 Satellite

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Whilst it may not be as visually spectacular as the legendary 'Earth Rise' picture, this month marks the 53rd anniversary of a photo with much more significance.

On April 1st 1960 the TIROS-1 (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) beamed back the first ever picture of Earth from space.

TIROS-1 only had a lifespan of 78 days but paved the way in showing how useful satellites could be for surveying global weather.

earth from space

TIROS-1's first image

The satellite, about the size of a beer barrel, also captured the first view of a tropical cyclone giving scientists invaluable information of the phenomenon.

The sheer unknown potential of space exploration at the time is reflected in Nasa's description of the mission:

The TIROS Program (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) was Nasa's first experimental step to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. At that time, the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven. Since satellites were a new technology, the TIROS Program also tested various design issues for spacecraft: instruments, data and operational parameters. The goal was to improve satellite applications for Earth-bound decisions, such as "should we evacuate the coast because of the hurricane?".

earth from space

This photo was taken the next day on 2nd April 1960

The TIROS Program's first priority was the development of a meteorological satellite information system. Weather forecasting was deemed the most promising application of space-based observations.

TIROS proved extremely successful, providing the first accurate weather forecasts based on data gathered from space. TIROS began continuous coverage of the Earth's weather in 1962, and was used by meteorologists worldwide. The program's success with many instrument types and orbital configurations lead to the development of more sophisticated meteorological observation satellites.

Nine more TIROS satellites were launched before they were replaced with the ESSA series in 1965.

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TIROS satellites revolutionized how we look at weather

See imagery of the Earth from the first weather satellite, taken 53 years ago