1 – Good Morning World
Along the outer edge of an ordinary spiral galaxy spins a rather average sun along with its orbiting planets. What is extraordinary, however, can be witnessed on the third planet from this sun. This is a rare water planet. And rarer still is the teaming life that can be found on the land, the air, and in the oceans of this small planet. Zooming in to this ‘blue marble’ planet, while passing by its small lifeless moon, a perspective of the planet’s curvature, framed by the cosmic black background, begins to display the sunrise just peaking over the Earth. Zooming closer, exposes a small speck, lit gleaming by the rising sun as it comes streaking into view and flies down from the white icy polar region toward the verdant tropical belt. As the object comes flying into the view, it reveals itself to be the AVHRR weather satellite, which stands for Advanced Very-High Resolution Radiometer.
[Author’s Note: Technical and foreign terms, denoted in Bold, can be found in the glossary.]
The satellite gets larger in the foreground, the sounds of steel drums keeping a steady beat, accompany the lone satellite. Faintly at first, but growing louder, the satellite can be heard singing a classic Caribbean song in a deep resonating baritone with a distinct Jamaican accent.
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
“Hello world. Hello brothers, sisters, and cousins all. I just looooove the sunrises over my sweet home island and the beautiful Caribbean. Glory be the day!
My name is Bolt, fast as a lightning bolt, and I keep a weather eye on the Caribbean and the whole world just for all of you. And this Bolt is the fastest Jamaican in the sky.
“Well now, me and my family, known as the famous TIROS flying clan, we fly over 17,000 miles per hour, Olympic speed, mon. I fly just up here 500 miles above the roof tops and beaches down on your planet Earth. I do this keeping a watch on all the weather…day and night.
“And up there,” he points up, “way, way up there, lives my favorite GOES cousins. They are my geostationary family members sitting 22,000 miles high in the sky, always looking down over their assigned region on Earth. Together, we represent the first weather, or Earth Observation satellites going way back to the 1960s. Even before astronauts walked on the Moon.
“We all be watching all the weather all the time. Me and my AVHRR brothers and sisters use our visible and infrared cameras to show the fishermen and sailors at sea how the winds and temperatures be. How high are the waves, how swift and warm are the ocean currents today. Are there any hurricanes or typhoons coming your way? Just ask us. We watch the clouds. We see it all.
“I loooove this job. I loooove the sunrises. I just looooove this Earth; my favorite planet.”
Bolt continued to fly southward along his flight path towards the Earth’s South Pole.
“I don’t mean to brag, but I am the best satellite ever and definitely the fastest tropical island boy in the sky,” he sang out as his voice grew dimmer. The faint sound of steel drums kept a beat as he flew south.
Suddenly, from a distance, a chorus of voices called out, “In what solar system are you making these claims, Bolt-mon? Everyone knows that the best satellites are all aboard the A-Train. Catch the train to fame; the A-Train.”
“Well, hello,” responded Bolt. “And a glorious good day to all aboard the A-Train,” he added as he continued on his south-bound orbit.
As the collection of satellites, known as the A-Train Constellation, came into view they formed an extended conga line moving along the same orbital path used by Bolt. The satellites conducted their own soundtrack, a tropical conga beat: “Conga, conga, conga. Conga, conga, conga.”
Soon the A-Train squad sped by Bolt and the first satellite, named Calipso, called out, “Hey, Bolt-mon, my tropical friend, how is the weather today?”
“No hurricanes today, Calipso, Everybody is enjoying a glorious high,” Bolt replied. “A long lasting high pressure system over the whole Caribbean that should last for many days. Clear skies and smooth sailing on the blue seas for all the islands, my friend.”
“Good to know, my tropical friend. Good to know. Say, has Lily told you about the new kid being launched today?” Calipso asked.
“No mon. I wasn’t in her orbit. What’s up?” responded Bolt.
“We are, of course!” The group laughed. “The new kid, his name is Oz and today is his Launch-Day. He is from down, down under, mate. He’s supposed to be Earth’s finest new satellite servicing mission, with the latest and greatest version updates for all our Mission Control software.”
The satellites laughed again. “They call it the Windows 57 mission. Soon, Lily says, Oz will be heading to the ISS Café bringing a load of goodies for all the International Confederation members. Upgrade packages for all. Christmas in July. Who knows, maybe new glasses for Old Man Hubble?”
Calipso, with his distinct Puerto Rican accent, began to sing to the tune of Old Man River, “Old Man Hubble, his eyes got trouble, but now he’s seeing way past the ceiling…ha, ha, ha,” Calipso finished with a deep belly laugh.
“OK. Don’t quit your day job for a singing career,” Bolt laughed. “Guess I need to check in with Lily. I don’t know if new glasses will help Old Man Hubble. He always has his head stuck in the cosmos. He just doesn’t see the Earth like we do.”
The A-Train kept orbiting on their pole to pole orbit leaving Bolt slightly behind to continue along on his similar polar orbit. As the A-Train sped out of sight, Bolt could faintly hear the satellites singing an old blues tune.
“A-Train A-Train going so fast.
A-Train A-Train going so fast.
Please don’t tell what orbit I’m on.
So they won’t know I am gone.”
As Bolt watched his A-Train friends glide over the curved Earth horizon, he was inspired to sing his own song:
“Polar polar polar passed, cross the equator oh so fast.
Polar polar rising fast, with the sun each day I pass.
Looking down through clouds and sea, helping track Earth’s destiny.
Polar bears and seals aplenty, walrus, whales, and reindeer many.
Too much carbon, we’re not joking, fires fill the skies a smoking.
Planet warming, getting warmer, bad for glaciers and the farmer.
Melting ice will raise all shorelines, changing weather in our lifetimes.
Satellite sentinels watch day and night, to help the humans stay right.
All nations show they care, when Earth Observations they share.
Let citizen-scientists together make, united efforts for all Earth’s Sake.”