New Satellite Technology Opens Up Burma, Solves U.S. Crimes

October 09, 2007 02:16 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The 50th anniversary of the world’s first man-made satellite coincides with a revolution in satellite imagery that has cracked crime, sought lost planes, and breached the barriers of tyranny.

30-Second Summary

On Oct. 4, 1957, the USSR put the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit. Today, estimates put the number of operational satellites circling the Earth at around 900. Ordinary people make use of them every day, via telephones, televisions, radio, and global-positioning systems.

Normally, no one stops to think about the sophisticated devices in space that enable many of our mundane modern tasks. But recent advances in satellite imagery are helping to make the world more conscious of the technology that encircles it.

When the explorer Steve Fossett went missing in Nevada in September, satellite images made available on the Internet allowed the public to join the search for his plane, presumed to have crashed somewhere in the wilds.

USAToday reported in the same month on how U.S. authorities have utilized the satellite imagery application Google Earth to hunt for marijuana fields and property tax evaders.

A very different development is the use of satellite photography to confirm accounts leaking out of Burma of human rights abuses.

These new uses of satellite technology illustrate an argument put forward in The Economist of Sept. 27, in anticipation of the anniversary of Sputnik’s launch.

Back in 1957, the space program was a matter of outward exploration. But its results have been an unexpected awareness of our own home planet: “The biggest mental change wrought by spaceflight has been not an appreciation of the vastness of the universe, but rather of the smallness, fragility and unity of Earth.”

Headline Links: Satellite imagery's new applications

Reference Material: The online resources

Related Links: Google Earth, uses and possible abuses

History: The space program 50 years on


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