Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008) is well known to science fiction fans. His 1948 short story “The Sentinel” was the basis for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Among his many accomplishments, he was also very interested in satellites. During World War II, Clarke was a radar technician for the Royal Air Force, and in 1945 he proposed designs for a communications system using satellites. He reasoned that this was possible if satellites could be placed in orbit above the equator while traveling 22,248 miles (35,797 kilometers) per hour. This would put them in geostationary orbit, meaning that each satellite would remain directly above a predetermined point on the Earth’s surface. This idea proved correct, and is used now for both communications and weather satellites. The Clarke Belt, a band of space over the equator at an altitude of 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) where geostationary satellites may orbit, is named in his honor.
A composite of photos from the TIROS IX, this image from February 13,1965, is the first complete view of our planet’s weather. (NOAA)