A very big day at work tomorrow (Monday). I work at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center. We house the world’s largest collection of satellite imagery, providing both data and the science to support the use of the data. USGS EROS was established 40 years ago, with a carefully selected site in the central part of the nation, to facilitate collection of satellite imagery.
In 1972, the first “Landsat” satellite was launched. It marked a milestone in environmental monitoring and assessment, as for the first time, synoptic, broad-scale, consistent observations of the Earth’s surface were available. Several subsequent Landsat missions have followed, with one mission (Landsat 5) finally ending recently after a remarkable 28 years of continuous data collection (not bad for what was thought to be a 5-year lifespan at most). Landsat 6, launched in the early 1990s, never achieved orbit and is currently at “home” somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Landsat 7, a flagship mission for USGS EROS, experienced sensor problems a few years ago, and now collects only partially degraded imagery.
Tomorrow, Monday, February 11th, at around noon central time, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will officially be termed Landsat 8 after a successful launch and a transition of control t0 USGS. The mission is a partnership between NASA and USGS, with NASA leading the design, construction, and launch of the satellite. We at USGS control the mission after launch, collect the data from the satellite, and distribute it to the public.
A big day, not just for USGS EROS, but for Earth Science. Landsat imagery have been used for countless different applications over the years, and with Landsat 8, we’ll be able to provide the data and science for years to come. If you get a chance, check out the launch tomorrow on NASA TV.