Over the past 50 years, thousands of satellites have been sent into space on missions to collect data about the Earth. Today, the ability to forecast weather, climate, and natural hazards depends critically on these satellite-based observations.
At the request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Academies published the report Earth Observations from Space: The First 50 Years of Scientific Achievements (2008) to describe how the ability to view the entire globe at once, uniquely available from satellite observations, has revolutionized Earth studies and ushered in a new era of multidisciplinary Earth sciences.
In particular, the ability to gather satellite images frequently enough to create “movies” of the changing planet is improving the understanding of Earth’s dynamic processes and helping society to manage limited resources and environmental challenges. The report concludes that continued Earth observations from space will be required to address scientific and societal challenges of the future.