Adopting TOPEX/Poseidon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


NASA Administrator Robert Frosch, an oceanographer, saw the value of satellite observations and directed his agency to build a program for ocean satellites with research as a purpose. W. Stanley Wilson, an oceanographer and bureaucratic entrepreneur, joined NASA to create such a program (Seasat was seen as a technology demonstration only). This chapter details what and how Wilson built an ocean program. At NASA Administrator James Beggs’ insistence, he acquired a research and development partner (France’s space agency, Centre national d’études spatiales, CNES). They promoted a new satellite, TOPEX/Poseidon. One reason it took so long to go from Seasat to the launch of TOPEX/Poseidon in 1992 was rivalry between Wilson and Shelby Tilford, who headed a higher agency priority, the Earth Observation System (EOS). Tilford wanted the ocean and Wilson as part of EOS. Wilson wanted autonomy. Tilford won and Wilson departed before TOPEX/Poseidon launched.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPalgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
VolumePart F1542
ISSN (Print)2730-972X
ISSN (Electronic)2730-9738


  • Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES)
  • Earth Observation System (EOS)
  • James Beggs
  • Robert Frosch
  • TOPEX/Poseidon
  • W. Stanley Wilson

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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