Nimbus satellites: Setting the stage for mission to planet Earth



October 24, 1992, marked the fourteenth anniversary of the launch of Nimbus 7, one of the most remarkable Earth remote-sensing spacecraft ever flown. Since 1978, Nimbus 7 has provided fundamental and often unique scientific measurements of Earth that have set the stage for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Figure 1). These include the first satellite views of the Antarctic ozone hole, the first global view of oceanic primary productivity, and early measurements of the Earth's radiation budget and stratospheric chemical species and aerosols. At the time of writing, four of the original eight instruments on Nimbus 7 are still operational although some anomalous behavior has recently appeared. In total, Nimbus satellites 1–7 carried out some forty-eight experimental observations of the Earth's global environment from 1964 to the present and established the heritage for current and planned Earth remote-sensing instruments and missions.