Al Gore's Satellite
July 20, 2015 5:01 PM   Subscribe

In 1998, Vice President Al Gore had a vision for "Triana," an imaging satellite that would continuously transmit a live "big blue marble" Earthview for the nascent World Wide Web. Designed, built, and scheduled for launch in 2001, the $150 million "GoreSat" became a victim of politics during the W. Bush administration, and was relegated to a closet at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Friendlier heads revived the satellite in 2009 as the NOAA's DISCOVR - the Deep Space Climate Observatory - and launched her on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last year. Today, NASA published her first "epic" view of Earth.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (27 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is that live view of Earth forthcoming, though?
posted by spreadsheetzu at 5:05 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Everything that NASA has been doing since Spirit landed on Mars has felt so amazing. I know, human spaceflight has been relegated to ISS missions for a long time, but we're building these robots that are really doing incredible things, often far beyond the scope of their original mission. Equally incredible, many of them seem to be able to bounce back from possible mission failure, basically a tribute to the engineers who designed and control the spacecraft, even across giant distances with huge communication lag time.

That they were smart enough to safely store this project without cannibalizing it for other projects, and that it got launched and it's now returning this glorious photo of our tiny blue dot, which is only the very very beginning of what it is going to deliver... speaks to how much NASA is doing with so little funding.

If only the money given to the agency were equal to the global public support and interest in what it is achieving. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 5:14 PM on July 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is but a continuation of a long project.
posted by zachlipton at 5:16 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dish Network channel 287 used to be a live SD shot of earth from EchoStar 11 at 110.0°W. The cameras have since been decommissioned for end-of-life. They had a "resolution of about 20 km per pixel. The camera’s image rate is one frame per every 15 seconds."

Some highlights/more info:
http://www.givetheworld.com/aboutEchoStar11.asp
posted by wcfields at 5:18 PM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Is that live view of Earth forthcoming, though?

DISH Network used to have Dish Earth, a live view from a camera on one of its geosynchronous satellites, but that lacked the full detail, and the camera finally degraded from being in space for so long that they had to decommission it. Still, I did watch that channel from time to time, because wow! Earth! Live! From Space!
posted by hippybear at 5:19 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pretty good job for a 12th-level Vice-President.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:21 PM on July 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


me: [fpp link] remember when calling stuff 'epic' marked you as a degenerate channer

friend: when climate change murders us all in a super hurricane, I look forward to scientists giving solemn speeches to the press: "The Earth is an epic fail. We gathered our best and brightest tryhards to carry but in the end we were pwned"
posted by p3on at 5:34 PM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


The NASA Channel used to show the earth from a camera mounted in the Space Shuttle's cargo bay whenever there was a Space Shuttle in orbit with its cargo bay doors open and nothing better to show. We used to watch it for hours trying to figure out the part of the world on display -- it was really hard! The Shuttle's orbit was so close and it didn't follow a course that matched up with any of the map and globe views we were used to seeing and there were clouds that confused all the features. Every once in a while we'd spot something -- is that the Caspian, on its side maybe? -- but we would rarely be able to connect it up with another recognizable feature.

This is great and I'm looking forward to the live view, too, for desktop wallpaper, maybe. Or in a digital photo frame on the wall.
posted by notyou at 5:39 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


So they literally put the Al Gore satellite in some kind of lock box?
posted by guiseroom at 5:40 PM on July 20, 2015 [27 favorites]


Huh, what's the weird green to the east of Florida's tip? Did someone massacre a colony of predators in the Bahamas?
posted by kafziel at 6:00 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shallow water around the Bahamas.
posted by ryanrs at 6:17 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


sure is cloudy
posted by leotrotsky at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]




The NASA Channel used to show the earth from a camera mounted in the Space Shuttle's cargo bay

NASA has live video feeds from the ISS now! It's pretty cool.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:02 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"While the HDEV collects beautiful images of the Earth from the ISS, the primary purpose of the experiment is an engineering one: monitoring the rate at which HD video camera image quality degrades when exposed to the space environment (mainly from cosmic ray damage) and verify the effectiveness of the design of the HDEV housing for thermal control."

I love that there's an ostensibly sound engineering reason for that ISS camera Salor Hardin linked. It gives me hope that one day we still may learn whether ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space…
posted by Pinback at 7:13 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Man, recent pictures of Earth from space kind of scare me. Didn't the land masses used to look kind of, you know -- green?
posted by webmutant at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2015


Didn't the land masses used to look kind of, you know -- green?

No, the predominant color has always been brown when viewed from space. Much of the green that would be reflected back into space is absorbed by the natural color absorbing properties of the Earth's atmosphere, so it's mostly the brown that gets back through to any outer space cameras.
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


The sad thing is you can clearly see in this picture how abnormally brown California is, and you can see much of southern British Columbia and almost all of Saskatchewan is covered in forest fire smoke. Gore may have got his satellite eventually, but it looks to me that it will end up witnessing the biggest consequence of the 2000 election going the other way. Let this be a lesson that your vote matters... especially if your name happens to be Anthony Kennedy.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:53 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty good job for a 12th-level Vice-President.

Well, he has ridden the mighty moon-worm.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I did watch that channel from time to time, because wow! Earth! Live! From Space!

Same here. Twice I caught the moon crossing the screen back behind the Earth! The time, angle and light had to all sync up, but it really drove home that that thing on the screen was the place where I am right now. Amazing.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 10:22 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Instrument specs for nerds. From a very quick look, the raw numbers look a bit meh compared to contemporary meteorological satellites, so I'm probably missing something here.
posted by effbot at 12:49 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm probably missing something here

Ah, the location. L1 is indeed a bit different from geostationary. That "look at our medium-res images of the globe" pitch confused me...
posted by effbot at 1:03 AM on July 21, 2015


From a very quick look, the raw numbers look a bit meh compared to contemporary meteorological satellites, so I'm probably missing something here.

Did you see the part where it was designed and built in 2001? The project got shelved for a long time.
posted by stopgap at 5:56 PM on July 21, 2015


The Lagrange L1 position, about 1 million miles from earth, is useful because a satellite there always maintains a position between the sun and the earth. This means that it constantly has a view of the full sunlit face of the earth. And because the earth rotates under the satellite every 24 hours, the satellite has a full 360 view of the entire earth's surface every day -- always in full sunlight.

The L1 point is slightly unstable, which means that the satellite wobbles to and fro around the actual L1 point in an orbit called a Lissajous curve. This is a three dimensional wobble which is a small circle perpendicular to the line between the sun and earth and at the same time moving closer and farther away from the earth. You might visualize this movement as a dot on the rim of a dinner plate that you drop on the floor. The dot moves up and down as the plate wobbles on the floor and also in a circle as the plate rotates slowly at the same time.

It turns out that this wobble is useful because if the satellite were always exactly in line with the sun, it would make communications difficult because radio noise from the sun would interfere with earth reception. A radio receiver has the same problem you do if you try to stare at the sun. You may have noticed that your TV satellite reception may have a brief blackout twice a year when the TV satellite lines up directly with the sun. The Lissajous wobble means that this satellite never lines up exactly with the sun, allowing better signal reception.

An L1 orbital position is different from the geosynchronous position. The L1 position is about 1 million miles from earth and the satellite always is located between the earth and sun. The satellite views the entire surface of the earth each day which makes it useful for whole earth surveillance. The geosynchronous orbit is about 26,000 miles from earth. The satellite orbits at the same speed as the earth rotates so it always is positioned at the same place above the earth. The geosynchronous orbit is useful for communications since your TV satellite dish never has to move because the satellite is always in exactly the same place in the sky. But it isn't as useful for whole earth surveillance since the satellite always looks at the same location on earth, both night and day.

Because the L1 orbit is unstable, even with the help of the Lissajous wobble, it means that fuel must be used occasionally to keep the satellite in position. But the tweaks are minor and this satellite should have many years of useful life.
posted by JackFlash at 7:33 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]




Did you see the part where it was designed and built in 2001? The project got shelved for a long time.

Sure, but surely there wouldn't be much of a point launching it if it was technologically inferior to things launched later (e.g. for plain globe imaging, Eumetsat's MSG, operational in 2004, gives a much higher resolution in 12 channels, with a 15-minute scan time. The ones being built now typically has 16 channels and at least double everything else. Etc.)

Having it sun-aligned in L1 instead of earth-aligned much closer to the globe makes it more interesting, obviously.
posted by effbot at 1:14 AM on July 22, 2015




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