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Landsat 8

Landsat 8 marked another sea change for the program with its launch on February 11, 2013.

False color Landsat 8 image of Siberian wildfire
False color Landsat 8 image of 2019 fires in Siberia.

Advanced sensors and improved image quality were hallmarks of the first Landsat mission of the open data era. Landsat 8 took flight carrying an Operational Land Imager (OLI), which records Earth surface imagery across a wider swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as a Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), which records temperature information.

Landsat 8 came of age in an era of unprecedented growth in the land remote sensing community. The proliferation of more powerful computing systems and the growth in artificial intelligence approaches, led to rapid advancements in wide-scale Earth observation monitoring.

Scientists were increasingly able to move beyond comparing one image to another, opting instead to scan massive troves of imagery for change in an automated fashion. The emergence of Landsat Collection 1, which harmonized and aligned Landsat imagery across the decades, made it easier to apply such approaches with confidence.

Applying big data approaches to the unmatched historical depth of the Landsat archive, scientists were able to apply Landsat in ways that had been technically infeasible in the early 21st Century. Nationwide water use efficiency estimates, near real time global forest change monitoring, and year-by-year land change mapping from 1985 on by the USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative all leaned on Landsat to improve our understanding of our changing planet.

As of March 2022, Landsat 8 had collected more than 2.2 million images of the Earth’s surface.

Visit the full Landsat 8 page on the Landsat Missions website.

Landsat 8 Launch

Video Transcript
A short video from the Landsat 8 launch in 2013.