It is not likely that we primates gazing through bits of glass
for a century or two will dissemble the architecture and history
of infinity. But if we don't try we won't get anywhere. Therefore
we professionals do the best we can to fit the odd clues we have
into some kind of plausible story. That is how science works, and
that is the spirit in which our cosmological speculations should
be treated. Don't be impressed by our complex machines or our
arcane mathematics. They have been used to build plausible cosmic
stories before - which we had to discard afterwards in the face of
improving evidence. The likelihood must be that such revisions
will have to occur again and again and again.
Michael J. Disney, "The Case Against Cosmology", 2000, astro-ph/0009020
The Nineties' Infrared astronomy was flagged by ISO and this will also hopefully be the case with Spitzer and the "Noughties". These two missions build upon the legacy of the pioneering first efforts at characterizing the infrared sky on one hand and on the first infrared all-sky survey performed by IRAS on the other, and pave the way for ambitious future projects. The decade 2003-2012 seems bound to witness the launch of four largely complementary infrared satellite missions. With Spitzer (see Chapter 8) already delivering very-high-quality images and spectra, ASTRO-F nearing the launch pad and Herschel instrumentation well under development, the end of this very exciting decade for space infrared astronomy will be flagged by the launch of JWST, the successor to HST and the most ambitious space mission ever to enter development phase. In this Chapter I briefly describe the origins of infrared astronomy and the most important past and future infrared extragalactic surveys.