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Why GPS is available to civilians today

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Wide White: Why GPS is available to civilians today

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why GPS is available to civilians today

I knew global positioning system (GPS) navigation was created by the Department of Defense for military use. Yesterday I learned why.

My wife and friends know that I'm an information geek. As such, here's the path that led me to my GPS find.
  1. A blog post on abuse in a "home school cult" referenced the John Birch Society, which sounded vaguely familiar for reasons I couldn't (and still can't) pinpoint.
  2. Curious, I Googled the John Birch Society. The Wikipedia entry mentioned the organization's second leader, Georgia Congressman Larry McDonald, "who was killed on September 1, 1983, when the Soviets shot down KAL 007."
  3. I hadn't heard of the KAL 007 incident and followed the link to that Wikipedia entry. The plane was shot down after the pilots mistakenly flew over prohibited Soviet airspace. As a result, "President Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to make the developing Global Positioning System (GPS) available for civilian use so that navigational errors like that of KAL 007 could be averted in the future."
And this is why I know random facts that will probably never serve much purpose other than to satisfy someone's - or at least my - curiosity. Hopefully I'm able to teach my kids a meaningful thing or two that sticks in my brain.

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Blogger Anna Misner declared,

Did you also know that for a long time the government was the only one that could obtain pin point (1ft or so) accuracy with GPS? They put interfering waves with the satellites so that civilians could only get within a couple of meters of being accurate. It's just lately that those interfering waves have been removed, but I still think the government has more accurate equipment than civilians have access to. Yeah, I was a geography major in college...

11/30/2010 11:36 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

No, I didn't know that. Very interesting!

11/30/2010 12:21 PM  

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