Common Uses For Space Satellites
Commercial satellites provide our telephone, television and other communication needs, while our weather satellites help us track major storm systems and predict the weather patterns around the globe.
Military satellites monitor the globe, providing information about vehicle movements, troop and equipment deployments, and missile launches, among other highly classified information. Our global positioning system would not be possible today if it were not for military satellites.
Scientific satellites have opened up the cosmos for us to begin to understand how it works. From looking down on our home planet with satellites monitoring everything from water and ice distribution, plant growth, sea level height, air pollution, and ocean temperatures, to looking out into the depths of space with Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and more recently, Kepler and WISE, to name just a few. These space satellites are telescopes that can examine the cosmos across the electromagnetic spectrum. They can peer through the veils of dust and gas to see into stellar nurseries and galactic cores. And, they contribute to our knowledge of how solar systems and galaxies formed, find extra-solar planets and help us see back in time to the early Universe.
There is a collection of space satellites that are exploring our Solar System from SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory monitoring the Sun, to New Horizons on its way to Pluto, arriving in 2015. All the planets have been visited by a man-made satellite at least once, and we’ve landed on two planets, Venus and Mars, and two natural satellites, our Moon and Titan, a moon of Saturn. There have also been two landings on asteroids. One by the Japanese satellite, Hayabusa, on the asteroid Itokawa, and another impromptu landing by NASA's NEAR satellite on the asteroid Eros. We’ve sampled dust from comets, flown by asteroids, and mapped the surfaces of many objects with our space satellites.