Space: A Satellite Goes Blind

For more than ten years, television weathermen have been displaying satellite maps of low pressures, high pressures, twisters and tempests, sometimes impressing their audiences with the scientific predictability of their forecasts. But the geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES), which transmit the images for those maps, have been highly unpredictable: of the six GOES launched since 1975, five are not functioning properly. The $70 million GOES 5, sent up in 1981 to cover the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean for at least five years, became the latest casualty last week when it went blind, just before the peak of...

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