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Landsat 1

Landsat 1 took flight on July 23, 1972, as the “Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS).” The satellite carried two sensors for imaging the Earth: a Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) camera and a Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS), the latter of which became the basis for the Landsat approach to monitoring the Earth.

The Landsat 1 Satellite
The Landsat 1 (ERTS-1) Satellite 

Through the MSS, Landsat 1 was able to record both the visible and invisible light reflected by the Earth’s surface across four bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. That innovation revolutionized the study of land change and laid the groundwork for much of satellite-based land remote sensing that followed it.

Scientists could now see damage from wildfires or invasive insects, measure the health of vegetation, map crop types, and watch for change with each repeat acquisition by the polar orbiting satellite. Adjusting the red, green, and blue channels in an image using the seven bands of the MSS made it possible to tease out formerly hidden information across wider swaths of land than an aerial survey, and new imagery appeared every 16 days.

The first satellite scene presented to the world after the launch of Landsat 1 signaled that new capability. It showed the Dallas-Fort Worth area in an infrared image, with vegetation appearing red—the color absorbed by the chlorophyll—and the city’s urban footprint in shades of gray.

Landsat 1 was decommissioned in 1978 after collecting over 162,000 images of the Earth’s surface.

Visit the full Landsat 1 page on the Landsat Missions website

Landsat 1 First Light Image

Landsat 1 first light image
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, slid into Landsat 1's view. The resolution is 60 meters per pixel in this false-color image, where shades of red indicate vegetated land and grays and whites are urban or rocky surfaces.