The Very First Picture of Earth Beamed From Outer Space

What with today's fancy Doppler radars and forecast graphics and fear mongering, it's refreshing to get a glimpse of the relative simplicity in man's very first attempt at remotely monitoring the shifts in Earth's climate.

After capturing the above images on April 1, 1960, TIROS-1 (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) only stayed in operation for 78 days before ending its historic run. During that time, though, it also granted us the very first look at a tropical cyclone, among various other images. Here's how NASA, which funded the project, describes its mission:

The TIROS Program . . . was NASA's first experimental step to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. At that time, the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven. Since satellites were a new technology, the TIROS Program also tested various design issues for spacecraft: instruments, data and operational parameters. The goal was to improve satellite applications for Earth-bound decisions, such as "should we evacuate the coast because of the hurricane?"

The TIROS program was obviously incredibly successful, and who knows how many lives were probably saved in the process. You can check out full size versions of the images over at Satellite Blog. [Satellite Blog via Discover]