National Geographic : 1983 Sep
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC will arrive via sat ellite to your home TV." NASA foresees major benefits from envi ronmental satellites. "They're invaluable to understanding the complete envelope of the environment-the complex interactions of the oceans, atmo sphere, and polar regions," said Dr. David Atlas, chief of NASA's Laboratory for At mospheric Sciences. "Only satellites can map the annual waxing and waning of the polar ice sheets, which have an immense ef fect on the atmosphere." Satellites also will aid in "now-casting" pinpointing locations of severe storms such as tornadoes before they strike. NASA's Dr. A. Fritz Hasler, who devel oped one promising technique, handed me a composite image made from two satellites simultaneously. Peering through special stereoscopic glasses, I saw an ugly curd of clouds. "We call that a 'pig nose,' "said Dr. Hasler. "It's the top of the severe thunder storm containing the tornado that blasted Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1979, destroying 4,000 homes. Stereo surveillance can help detect these in time to give warning." Science in space will soar to a new plateau in 1986, when the shuttle hauls aloft a 12-ton orbiting observatory known as the Space Telescope. Big as a boxcar, it will expand man's vision in the heavens sevenfold, possi bly to the very edges of the known universe. Ironically, the technological revolution soon will spell doom for today's familiar, free-flying satellites. "They're too costly to To attack... KILLINGA SATELLITE, U. S. style. In a system now being tested, an F-15fighterfires a two-stage missile at its target.With telescopes for eyes, the 50-pound warhead adjusts its flight pathfor intercept. Soviet style: a much heavier satellite, known as a hunter-killer,is boosted to the same orbitalpath as its target, closes in, and explodes. Using theirown satellites as targets, the Russians have demonstratedthis capabilitymany times.