One year ago, on February 11, 2013, NASA launched the Landsat 8 Earth-observing satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, Calif.
A flawless launch, followed by the transfer of operational control on May 30 to the U.S. Geological Survey, marked the start of the satellite's mission to extend an unparalleled record of observing Earth's landscape from space. Landsat 8 is the latest in the Landsat series of remote-sensing satellites that have provided a continuous record of change across Earth’s land surfaces since 1972.
Landsat provides land images globally at a scale that impartially documents natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, glacial retreat, floods, and forest fires and human-induced processes such as urban expansion, crop irrigation, and forest clear-cutting. The Landsat Program is a sustained effort by the United States to provide direct societal benefits across a wide range of human endeavors including human and environmental health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery, and agriculture.
"Data produced by Landsat plays a vital role in managing America’s natural resources and the industries and jobs that rely on those resources," said Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds NASA and USGS. "It was Landsat that brought home the severity of Midwest floods in the 1990s, and it has helped identify periods of severe drought that were so devastating to our farmers and foresters. My hat goes off to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center that has played a key role in building each of the Landsat satellites, including Landsat 8, improving each satellite with the latest technology and help us better understand planet Earth."
"For over forty years, the Landsat Program has provided a valuable stream of image data of the Earth’s landscape. The newly activated Landsat 8 satellite continues this mission, sending images to the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center near Sioux Falls, S.D.,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota. “The land and water resource data from Landsat 8 is a great asset to agricultural producers and others in both the public and private sectors. I salute the professionals at NASA and USGS who have worked to make this resource available for decades, and into the future."
"Thanks to the hard work of many dedicated individuals at both NASA and USGS, today we celebrate the one year anniversary of the launch of the Landsat 8 satellite," said Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota. "Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a proud supporter of the Landsat program, and the USGS EROS Center, which processes Landsat data. The images produced by Landsat satellites are used all over the world as a vital planning tool, allowing researchers to analyze the ways in which land use and management have changed, and giving policymakers important information as they seek to develop sensible economic and environmental policy, including helping to track flooding, wildfires, drought, and other changing environmental conditions. I commend NASA and USGS on reaching this milestone!"
"The 40-year archive of Landsat imagery, propelled into the 21st century by Landsat 8, is a treasure trove of scientific information that can form the basis for a myriad of useful applications. The USGS free data policy makes this treasure available to every person on the planet," said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior. "I congratulate the dedicated scientists, engineers, and support staff at USGS EROS and NASA Goddard who carefully built a long and successful partnership over many years. Commercial enterprises, government scientists and managers, and the academic community can all take advantage of the Landsat data you’ve made available."
Over the past 12 months, the USGS EROS Center and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have worked side-by-side putting the new satellite through its paces -- steering it into its orbit, calibrating its detectors, collecting test images, certifying the mission for operations, and collecting much more imagery each day than its predecessors for users throughout the United States and around the world.
"The Landsat archive, reaching back across four decades, provides an unprecedented record of land-surface change," said NASA Goddard Director Chris Scolese. "The Landsat program’s success is largely due to the great partnership between NASA and the USGS. Every day we are building and strengthening that partnership, which will undoubtedly contribute to the success of future missions."
"NASA's successful development and launch of Landsat 8, the rapidly increasing volume of image data distributed by the USGS to research and operational users worldwide, and the Administration's identification of Landsat as one of the Nation’s critical data streams – all of these factors have sparked renewed emphasis by the Administration and the user community in securing uninterrupted access to Landsat data for decades to come," said USGS EROS Director, Frank Kelly.
"Both NASA Goddard and the USGS EROS Center have developed and maintained unique capabilities, where each Center leverages on the strength and expertise of the other, avoiding duplication, and ensuring the success of each mission," Kelly continued. "As we look at alternatives for sustained land imaging, we must make good use of our combined expertise so we can achieve the twin goals of pursuing the timely implementation of a land imaging capability to minimize any potential data gaps while leveraging the most promising technologies."
A year after launch, the record for Landsat 8 is clear. The new satellite strikes an effective balance of introducing new technologies and capabilities while maintaining compatibility with the existing 41 years of Landsat data. With the seamless integration of Landsat 8 into the family, the Landsat program continues to provide objective information about the Earth that is trustworthy, easily accessible, and useful in many different fields of science and resource management.