Trying to figure out where you are and where you're going is probably one of man's oldest pastimes.
Navigation and positioning are crucial to so many activities and yet the process has always been quite cumbersome.
Over the years all kinds of technologies have tried to simplify the task but every one has had some disadvantage. [view other Positioning Systems]
Finally, the U.S. Department of Defense decided that the military had to have a super precise form of worldwide positioning. And fortunately they had the kind of money ($12 billion!) it took to build something really good.
Why Did the Department of Defense Develop GPS?
In the latter days of the arms race the targeting of ICBMs became such a fine art that they could be expected to land right on an enemy's missile silos. Such a direct hit would destroy the silo and any missile in it. The ability to take out your opponent's missiles had a profound effect on the balance of power.
But you could only expect to hit a silo if you knew exactly where you were launching from. That's not hard if your missiles are on land, as most of them were in the Soviet Union. But most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal was at sea on subs. To maintain the balance of power the U.S. had to come up with a way to allow those subs to surface and fix their exact position in a matter of minutes anywhere in the world Hello GPS!
The result is the Global Positioning System, a system that's changed navigation forever.