The water and energy cycles are major elements of the Earth climate. These cycles are especially active in the intertropical belt where satellites provide the most suitable observational platform. The history of Earth observations of the water cycle and of the radiation budget viewed from space reveals that the fundamental questions from the early times are still relevant for today's research. The last 2 decades have seen a number of milestones regarding the documentation of rainfall, mesoscale convective systems (MCS), water vapour and radiation at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). Beyond dedicated missions that provided enhanced characterizations of some elements of the atmospheric water cycle and field campaigns that allowed the gathering of validation data, the advent of the long record of meteorological satellites lead to new questioning on the homogenisation of the data time series, etc. The use of this record to document the tropical climate brought new results of the distribution of humidity and reinforced the understanding of some robust features of the African monsoon. Challenges for the immediate future concerns the deepening of the understanding of the role of cloud systems in the monsoon circulation, the downscaling of the documentation of the water and energy cycle at the scale of these cloud systems, the research of better adequation between the users and the satellite estimate of rainfall and finally a much needed methodological effort to build exploitable time series for the estimation of climatic trends in the water and energy cycle in the Tropics. The required observations to address these challenges are rapidly presented with emphasis on the upcoming Megha-Tropiques (MT) mission.