History of Remote Sensing: In the Beginning; Launch Vehicles
Having now covered some of the principles behind the nature and use of remote sensing data and methodologies, including sensors and image processing, we switch to a survey of the era of satellite remote sensing (and some mention of aircraft remote sensing and space photography by astronauts/cosmonauts) introduced from an historical framework. Special topics near the end will be multiplatform systems, military surveillance, and remote sensing as it applies to medical imaging systems.
Remote sensing as a technology started with the first photographs in the early nineteenth century (see first page of Overview). To learn about the milestones in remote sensing prior to the first Landsat, look to these three areas - Photographic Methods, Non-Photographic Sensor Systems, Space Imaging Systems on the next 3 pages. That review (extracted from the writer's Landsat Tutorial Workbook) ends with events in 1979. You can also find more on the general history of U.S. and foreign space programs in Appendix A and at this online Web site: review-3. NASA's Earth Sciences Enterprise program has prepared a brief but informative summary of its first 40 years of Earth Observations, accessed at its site.
We present major highlights subsequent to 1979 both within this Introduction and throughout the Tutorial. Some of these highlights include short summaries of major space-based programs such as launching several other satellite/sensor systems similar to Landsat; inserting radar systems into space; proliferating weather satellites; orbiting a series of specialized satellites to monitor the environment using, among others, thermal and passive microwave sensors; developing sophisticated hyperspectral sensors; and deploying a variety of sensors to gather imagery and other data on the planets and astronomical bodies.