Chapter thirteen: The Bird’s-Eye View

Information about ideas for meteorology satellites in the early 1950s can be found in: RAND’s Role in the Evolution of Balloon and Satellite Observation Systems and Related US Space Technology (page 140 and 141), by Merton E. Davies, William R. Harris; and Inquiry into the Feasibil­ity of Weather reconnaissance from a Satellite Vehicle, by S. M. Greenfield and W. W. Kellogg. This is an unclassified version of USAF Project RAND Report R-218, April 1951.

An unsigned letter, probably from Thomas Haig or Verner Suomi, talks of the work that the writer and Dave Johnson did toward promoting a single national satellite program in the early 1960s. They were unsuccessful, and both a civilian and military program have since run in parallel. Verner Suomi talks of the duplication he saw (page 147). The writer of the letter to Johnson says of a national program, “I don’t think anyone has come close since, and lots of dollars have been wasted as a consequence.”

The patent dispute between Hughes and NASA over the spin-scan cam­era went on for some time. An internal memo from Robert Parent to Verner Suomi of July 8, 1969, outlines the issues and suggests that he and Suomi should put together a chronology in case further action should be taken in future.

Five years later, the dispute was still bubbling along. In a letter dated October 10, 1974, Verner Suomi wrote to Robert Kempf at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He described when and how he con­ceived of the idea for the spin scan camera and what he subsequently did. Suomi asserts that he considers the patent to belong to the U. S. govern­ment. The dispute was resolved in NASA’s favor.

The report “Space Uses of the Earth’s Magnetic Field” (unclassified report) by Ralph B. Hoffman, 1st Lt. USAF, and Thomas O. Haig, Lt. Col. USAF, describes the passive attitude control possible by designing the satellite so that it can take advantage of Earth’s magnetic field for attitude control.

Chapter fourteen: Keep it Simple, Suomi

I gathered most biographical details about Verner Suomi from interviews with him and his wife and crosschecked these where possible with writ­ten sources and the impressions of those who knew him, which includes nearly everyone in the world of meteorology. I interviewed Dave John­son, Joseph Smagormsky, Robert White, Pierre Morel, Thomas Haig, Leo Skille, Bob Sutton, and Bob Ohckers.

The feud between Reid Bryson and Verner Suomi (page 152) is explored by William Broad in the New York Times of October 24, 1989.

My favorite piece of correspondence to Wexler, clearly written in response to his efforts to drum up support for Verner Suomi’s radiation balance experiment, is from Herbert (Herbie) Riehl, of the University of Chicago (which then had a highly respected meteorology department). Riehl wrote to Wexler on November 28, 1956, from “somewhere over the Rockies” in a plane “with mechanical shakes, hope you have bi­focals.” He said, “Some hours have gone since our early morning encounter, but they have been enough for my latent astonishment at your remarks over satellites to solidify.” Riehl goes on to discuss Earth’s net radiation balance. He adds, “I think this is fundamental information for guiding meteorological research on long (and very long) period changes.”

Wexler presented Suomi’s idea for a radiation balance experiment to the Technical Panel on the Earth Satellite Program (page 154) on the second day of the sixth meeting of the TPESP on June 8, 1956. James Van Allen, with his credentials as the former chair of the Upper Atmosphere Research Panel, headed a Working Group on Internal Instrumentation formed by the TPESP at its third meeting, on January 28. The UARP had received many suggestions for satellite instrumentation following President Eisenhower’s announcement of July 29, 1955. One of these experiments was that of Bill Stroud, from the Signal Corps of Engineers. Van Allen pointed out that Stroud’s experiment had already been approved, and that while not as broad as Wexler’s proposal, it was simpler.

Wexler obtained the backing of the IGY’s Technical Panel on Meteorol­ogy, of which Wexler was chair, for both Stroud’s and Suomi’s experi­ments at the TPM’s eighth meeting, on October 9, 1956.

Suomi and Parent received their formal go-ahead to produce their satel­lite for a Vanguard launch on December 31, 1957, from J. G. Reid, secre­tary to the TPESP.

The account of the Juno II explosion (page 161) comes from Wisconsin State Journal, July 17, 1959.

A draft of the IGY terminal report of Suomi’s radiation balance experi­ment prepared July 27, 1961, by Stanley Ruttenberg, head of the IGY’ program office, gives details of the instrumentation in operation (page 162). It says, “A huge amount of data is accumulating from this experi­ment… only a start has yet been made on reducing this data and analyz­ing it.” Daytime data was less useful than nighttime data, noted the report, because of interference from the ionosphere. It says, “Despite the neces­sary shortcomings of the data there does seem to be a clear indication that large scale outward radiation flux patterns exist and that these patterns are related to the large scale features of the weather.” The report concludes, “The experience being gained from this experiment will be an important factor in designing future meteorological satellite experiments.”