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Landsat 7

Landsat 7 saw the program return to the public sector, advancements in image quality, and the expansion of three decades of continuous Earth observation. 

Landsat 7 had the honor of acquiring the satellite program’s 10 millionth scene in November 2021. The scene captures changes to the Dead Sea, located in Southwest Asia. The Dead Sea is mainly fed by the Jordan River, which enters from the north. However, the water level of the Dead Sea has been falling due to irrigation projects and water use upstream. The Dead Sea has no outlet, so the only way water exits is by evaporation. When the water evaporates, it leaves behind dissolved minerals, making the water even saltier. This series of images of the Dead Sea reveals one of Landsat’s biggest strengths—its nearly 50-year record of continuous data. Landsats 8 and 9 together will acquire around 1,500 satellite scenes per day, a pace higher than at any other time in Landsat’s history. Read more about the Dead Sea on the USGS Earthshots website. All 10 million+ Landsat scenes are available for free download at the USGS EarthExplorer site.

The seventh iteration of the satellite series, launched on April 15, 1999, boasted an Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensor, which marked an improvement over Landsats 4 and 5. The ETM+ was also an improvement over the sensor affixed to the unsuccessful Landsat 6 satellite, due to its improved thermal infrared imaging capabilities. Unfortunately, a scan line corrector failure in 2003 caused a zig zag pattern to appear in Landsat 7 imagery.

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the Landsat program in 2002, staff at the USGS EROS Center selected a handful of images for creative enhancement. Forty of the most inspiring, beautiful satellite images became the very first “Earth as Art” collection. Several sets were framed and displayed in federal venues across the Nation, including the underground hallways that connect the House and Senate office buildings in Washington, D.C.

Landsat 7 imagery, alongside imagery from each preceding mission, became free and open to the public at no cost in 2008. The policy shift led to a rapid expansion of Landsat use. By 2020, more than 100 million Landsat scenes had been downloaded from the USGS EROS Center archive.

As of March 2022, prior to decommissioning, Landsat 7 had collected more than 3.1 million Earth surface images.

Visit the full Landsat 7 page on the Landsat Missions website.

Landsat 7 First Light Image

Landsat 7 First Light Image, April 1999
This color infrared image of Southeast South Dakota was advertised as the first image acquired by Landsat 7's Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensor on April 18, 1999. The Missouri River flows from the middle left of the image, to the lower right, where the Fort Randall Dam creates Lake Francis Case.