Everyone at USGS EROS (Earth Resource Observation and Science) Center had been looking forward to today for a long time…years in fact. With the Landsat 5 satellite recently decommissioned after an incredible 28 year run…with Landsat 6 somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific, and with Landsat 7 operating with a crippled instrument, USGS EROS, and Earth Science in general, NEEDED a successful Landsat 8 launch. Today, we got that successful launch.
The “Landsat Data Continuity Mission”, soon to be dubbed “Landsat 8″ once NASA transitions satellite control to the USGS, launched today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Everything has gone flawlessly so far. No delays in the countdown, great weather, and everything gone perfectly during launch.
Three “goosebump” moments for me today…
1) The final “OK”s from the mission engineers. One by one, they went through a check of all systems, with each engineer replying with a “Check!!”. That’s when you knew that after years of planning, you only had a few minutes before actual launch.
2) Actual launch, with multiple views showing the launch from a distance, camera on the rocket, etc.
3) My favorite moment, pictured above…separation of the satellite from the rocket. The NASA announcer talked about the quiet and tension in the room in the few minutes leading up to this, as satellite separation can be a tricky stage. Not only does it go flawlessly, but the views from the camera on the rocket, looking towards the satellite as it slowly moves away, were just stunning. It separated somewhere over Europe, where it was night. All you could see of the earth was a bright sliver in the distance, like a sliver of a crescent moon. Then just about 15 seconds after separation, you seen the sun come out from behind the crescent, with the satellite and rocket in the foreground.
AMAZING. GREAT day for USGS EROS! Now we just have to hope the satellite checks out as flawlessly as the launch!!