Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Did you check a weather app today? Use a credit card? Turn on your GPS? If so, you’re living in a world made possible by a technology we too often take for granted: satellites.
Satellites have come a long way since 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik, the first such device in history. Back then, satellites were a (slightly unnerving) novelty. Today, they’re the backbone of much of everyday life.
They allow us to map greenhouse gas emissions. They help us farm more efficiently. They’re an essential tool for protecting wildlife. They even played a key role in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
And in the future? They’re only going to become more central to our lives. While humans have launched 16,000 satellites into orbit in the decades since Sputnik, nearly 5,000 of them went up in 2022 alone. One of the reasons: over the last few decades, the cost of launching them has fallen by about 98%.
This new era is not without complications, however. There are 3,000 inactive satellites in orbit right now, along with 8,000 metric tons of debris — all of which could be a recipe for a potentially catastrophic collision in space. There’s also the question of what the effects on the environment will be when all those satellites someday disintegrate in the atmosphere.
But despite all those complications, it’s a near-certainty that satellites are going to continue changing our lives for decades to come.Published in