On 1ST April, 1960, NASA launched from Cape Canaveral, TIROS-I (Television Infrared Observation Satellite). TIROS-I, a drum-shaped satellite (1.1 metre diameter and 48cm height), was the first true weather satellite. It operated for 78 days and proved to be much more successful than Vanguard 2, the satellite that was designed to measure cloud-cover distribution and was launched on 17 February, 1959.
Immediately after launching, TIROS-I, started transmitting pictures containing cloud-cover views of the Earth. These photographs provided new information on weather patterns which meteorologists could use to provide the first weather forecasts based on data gathered from space.
TIROS paved the way for the Nimbus, a second-generation, more advanced satellite program, whose technology and findings are the heritage of most of the Earth-observing satellites NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have launched since then.
A month after the launch of TIROS-I, the chief of the U.S. Weather service wrote to NASA’s first Deputy Director, Dr Hugh Latimer Dryden, informing him that he was going to ask Congress for more R&D money for his agency. The Weather Service wanted to develop a system – in cooperation with NASA – to utilize the data received from satellites in orbit. Dryden was doubtful. Doing things for “research purposes was all NASA’s mission involved”, he replied, adding that “…..the exploitation of data from weather satellites either for research purposes or for weather forecasting are not within the function assigned to NASA by the NASA Act of 1958”.