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FEATURE ARTICLE

Fifty Years of Earth-observation Satellites

Views from space have led to countless advances on the ground in both scientific knowledge and daily life

Andrew J. Tatem, Scott J. Goetz, Simon I. Hay

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A half a century ago, the launch of Sputnik-1 saw the start of an era where we began to launch artificial satellites into orbit to tell us what we look like from above. Hundreds of Earth-observing satellites have followed, and this extensive remote sensing has provided both iconic views and unprecedented insights into our planet. Tatem, Goetz and Hay review the development of these satellites over the past 50 years, as well as the data they have produced, which has lead to a greater understanding of Earth's terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric processes. They examine current trends and speculate on what the next 50 years of satellite remote sensing may bring.


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