How GPS Is Changing Our World

How GPS Is Changing Our World.

Nearly every spot on earth has a line of sight to at least four Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, which is why the streets of major cities are brimming with that modern curse of humanity, texter-walkers. Like much of today’s good stuff, GPS began life as a “military application”. Author Greg Milner, quoting expert Len Jacobson, says that GPS is now responsible for a trillion dollar-turnover so large that it’s “meaningless to anyone but a scholar.”

In 1983, a Soviet airforce pilot downed a Korean Boeing 747 that had departed from New York, having genuinely mistaken the passenger plane for a threat after it strayed into Soviet airspace. The 747, carrying 269 people, was destroyed because someone in the cockpit had punched the wrong co-ordinates into the navigation computer. A rattled President Reagan thus issued an order telling his defence chiefs to make their funky GPS available to civilian airlines, in the hope of averting future tragedies. This has obviously worked, up to a point. For all its worldwide span, the application of GPS relies at any one time on little more than a few blokes in a Colorado hanger, 24/7, 365 days and nights of the year. A tiny and deliberately obscure crew, known as the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, monitors and maintains the 31 GPS satellites orbiting 12,500 miles above earth that make up the mind-boggling system that Milner confidently asserts “affects nearly every person on earth.”

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