Did Ronald Reagan create the GPS satellite network?
My Dad is trying to convince me that it was former US president Ronald Reagan who created the GPS satellite network that powers all the nifty handheld GPS navigational devices we have nowadays. I think he's full of it. What's the truth?
Easy now, that's your Dad you're talking about. Let's have a little respect! :-)
Truth is, your Dad's pretty close to the mark here. While Reagan didn't create the GPS satellite network, it is true that after the 1983 downing of Korean Air Flight 007 by the Soviets [ref] President Reagan did authorize the civilian use of the GPS network, paving the way for the modern devices we all now use and appreciate.
I dug up a splendid article on the modern GPS network from Newsweek that explains its history and important milestones in its evolution. They identify the launch of the first GPS satellite as an Aerospace Corp. Atlas rocket payload shot up back in 1963. (The most important satellite launch, of course, was the Russian Sputnik, sent up in 1957 and the seed that really accelerated the paranoia of the Cold War)
It should be no surprise that by the mid-60's the military was experimenting with GPS devices of its own, including the Transit system launched by the U.S. Navy in 1965 to help with the guidance and navigation of submarines (carrying nuclear warheads. It's a miracle we didn't wipe civilization off the face of the Earth back then).
Almost a decade later, in 1973, the Department of Defense authorized the launch and creation of the Navstar GPS system, and one year later, Rockwell International (now a part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems) is picked to build the satellite network.
Another decade passes and in 1983, as I mentioned earlier, Korean Air Flight 007, a civilian jetliner, is shot down by the Soviets for violating Soviet airspace. Most likely explanation: the plane simply didn't know that it had erred in its navigation. Then President Reagan recognizes that one solution is to authorize the civilian and commercial use of the GPS satellite network to better enable accurate navigation anywhere around the globe.
The modern GPS satellite network we all utilize is comprised of 24 satellites (and a couple of spares floating up there just in case) that were launched, six per year, between 1989 and 1993. In the midst of that -- 1990 -- the Navstar system becomes fully operational and is first used in combat during the Gulf War.
The very next year, 1991, startup Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) introduced the first portable navigation system, the GPS 100, and it is a harbinger of what will come in terms of portable systems for outdoor activities. Seven years later General Motors (NYSE:GM) releases OnStar, an automative information system that includes a built-in GPS solution.
Since then we have seen, in 2000, the authorization of higher accuracy GPS information for civilian use and the subsequent boom in GPS devices. I know this personally as we have GPS navigational devices in both of our cars (a Toyota Prius and a Volvo XC90) as well as a smaller Garmin Nuvi 680 unit that we travel with throughout the United States.
So there you have it. You need to eat humble pie, I'm sorry to say, because your Dad really is correct in this instance. :-)
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