On 26 June 1978 the world's first oceanographic satellite, Seasat, was launched into orbit, beginning a 104-day mission of observing the oceans. After an extensive analysis of the accuracy of data from the satellite by all groups interested in the measurements, the data were processed and distributed. They were then used for mapping the distribution of oceanographic variables, for studying oceanic processes, and for practical applications. Analyses of data from the mission demonstrated that (1) evaluation of data by many competing groups leads to quicker results than evaluations by limited groups with exclusive access to the data; (2) global calibrations of satellite observations are much more accurate compared with measurements made at points on the ocean; (3) evaluations of the accuracy of satellite measurements of a particular variable are improved if the variable is measured by different instruments on the same satellite; (4) studies of oceanic processes are improved and simplified if many different variables are measured by the same satellite; (5) important oceanographic variables can be mapped from space with accuracies required by climatological and scientific studies; and (6) oceanographic satellite data have useful commercial value. The success of the Seasat mission has led to the design of many similar missions, and to the flight of instruments similar to those flown on the satellite.

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