Illustration of Global Positioning System

1978 Global Positioning System

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Roger L. Easton, Ivan A. Getting, Bradford Parkinson geodesy Illustration of Global Positioning System

Global Positioning System

GBS was a secret military technology until the USSR shot down KAL flight 007 because it had strayed into soviet airspace and Ronald Reagan decided that civilians could access it worldwide. This was in 1983. Work on predecessors of GPS began in 1959 with the Transit satellite navigation system, 1967 came the Timation satellites, and 1968 the Omega radio navigation system. In 1973, the first GPS project was Navstar (Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging) for the Defense Navigation Satellite System (DNSS) with the first satellites launched between 1978 and 1985.


Agriculture measuring machine use and crop yields Navigation coordinating movement of troops and supplies measuring velocity and direction Search and rescue Synchronizing clocks Surveying Target tracking triangulating military targets guiding precision-guided missiles Transportation locating users on a map tracking vehicle fleets automating driver tasks self-driving cars Tectonics measuring the motions of tectonic plates Geofencing, geotagging, geocaching, and geodashing


GPS navigation will warn us when we are a mile from our exit, but I know we are three miles out. (This is not dead reckoning; I’ve noticed the mileposts and I know the distance.) One argument against GPS navigation was used against electronic calculators, that you lose the ability to do it in your head, which is not necessarily true. GPS navigation has an advantage in unfamiliar territory, but my mental map of familiar places compiles over time without effort and is nuanced with experience.

Since GPS is owned and controlled by the United States, the Russia has its own satellite navigation system, called GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), not to be confused with glasnost, China has its, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, and the European Union has its global navigation satellite system (GNSS), Galileo. Not to mention the regional systems put up by India and Japan.

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