USGS EROS Archive - Landsat Legacy - Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) Film Only

Science Center Objects

Landsats 1 through 5 MSS scenes from film sources are available in digital format as a color composite and as four black-and-white spectral bands.  (1972-1992)

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Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) Film Only Color Composite

Multispectral Scanner (MSS)
Film Only color composite of
the Shatt al Arab River Delta
in Iran (1989)
(Public domain)

The Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS), a sensor carried on Landsats 1 through 5, acquired four spectral bands of radiant energy from the earth’s surface. The wavelength range for the MSS sensor is from the visible through the near-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The scenes are approximately 170 km by 185 km at a resolution of 79 meters.

Band Designation

Landsat 1-3

  • Band 4 - 0.5 to 0.6 µm Wavelength
  • Band 5 - 0.6 to 0.7 µm Wavelength
  • Band 6 - 0.7 to 0.8 µm Wavelength
  • Band 7 - 0.8 to 1.1 µm Wavelength

Landsat 4-5

  • Band 1 - 0.5 to 0.6 µm Wavelength
  • Band 2 - 0.6 to 0.7 µm Wavelength
  • Band 3 - 0.7 to 0.8 µm Wavelength
  • Band 4 - 0.8 to 1.1 µm Wavelength

Original MSS scenes from 1972 through 1992 were recorded on high density magnetic tape, corrected for atmospheric scattering, and sent to a film recorder where the photographic images were created. MSS scenes that were collected between 1972 and 1979 were recorded to film by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center using electron beam recorders to generate 70 mm film sources. From 1979 to 1992 Landsat data were processed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Digital Processing System (EDIPS) which used laser beam film recorders to create 9-inch black-and-white positive transparencies. The USGS EROS archive includes approximately 335,500 scenes on 70 mm film and 334,500 scenes on 9-inch film.

The MSS Film Only collection includes 43,200 scenes where the only remaining source is the black-and-white film images. Since all Landsat data are of historical value for global change research, these images will be scanned on high performance photogrammetric film scanners making the data digitally accessible to the scientific community. Additional scenes will be added to the MSS Film Only collection if their digital sources are found to be unreadable.

MSS Film Only scenes from Landsats 1 through 3 are referenced to Landsat Worldwide Reference System-1 and scenes from Landsats 4 and 5 are referenced to Landsat Worldwide Reference System-2.

Digital Products

Two digital download options are available through EarthExplorer at no cost to the user for the MSS Film Only scenes that have already been scanned.

  • A four band Landsat MSS scene data file consists of a zip file containing four co-registered spectral bands. The file size for each black-and-white scan is approximately 100 MB. The files are stored in a TIFF format.
  • A full resolution color composite of a Landsat MSS Film Only scene is a Red, Green, Blue (Bands 7, 6, 5 for Landsats 1-3 and bands 4, 3, 2 for Landsats 4-5) image created from the black-and-white scans. The file size for a MSS color composite image is approximately 10 MB. The file is stored in a JPEG format.

If the MSS Film Only scenes have not been already scanned, an order can be placed to scan the film at $30.00 per scene. A $5.00 handling fee is charged for all orders requiring payment.

Coverage Maps

Coverage Maps indicating the availability of MSS Film Only products are available for download.

Additional Informaiton

Access Data

EarthExplorer can be used to search, preview, and, download MSS Film Only scenes. The collection is located under the Landsat Legacy category.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) Film Only Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number: /10.5066/P9CW03GT