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The 2020 William T. Pecora Awards Recognize Excellence in Earth Observation

Two awardees have been honored with the 2020 William T. Pecora Award for major achievements in Earth remote sensing.


Ms. Kass Green is being recognized for her outstanding contributions as a scientist and entrepreneur to improve decision-making through the use of remote sensing.  The Landsat 5 Flight Operations Team is recognized for its engineering excellence and problem-solving ingenuity, which enabled long-term, continued Earth observations that significantly advanced the Landsat program and greatly benefited humankind. 


Sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the annual award has been presented since 1974 and honors the memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, former USGS Director and Department of the Interior Undersecretary.  Formal presentation of the awards is tentatively scheduled at the 22nd William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium on October 26, 2022, in Denver.


Individual Award:  Ms. Kass Green


Kass Green leans against a wood railing, smiling at the camera, with a forest in the background
Ms. Kass Green is the winner of the 2020 Individual Award.

Through her skilled leadership and strong intellect, Ms. Green has played a pivotal role in improving land and resource management in the United States and throughout the world.   During her long and distinguished career, Ms. Green has made impressive contributions in the fields of Earth science and resource management as a scientist, entrepreneur, educator, and mentor, while also being a leading advocate for Federal policies that advance the societal benefits of civil remote sensing.


Ms. Green has influenced decision-makers in Federal, State, and local government as well as private organizations in their use of remote sensing, especially Landsat, for a broad range of applications including water management, forestry, wildlife habitat management, storm mitigation, wildfire risk management, coastal management, ecosystem evaluation, agricultural monitoring, wildfire fuels management and damage assessment, wetland management, and land use/land cover change detection and analysis.  


As a highly respected voice from private industry, Ms. Green has advocated for the utility and continuity of land-imaging observations.  She played an important role in crafting language for the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act, which provided for the continuity of Landsat observations and enabled the effective long-term archiving and distribution of land-imaging data to a wide range of users.  Ms. Green has continued to provide valuable policy insights throughout her career through her service on the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive Advisory Committee, the National Geospatial Advisory Committee and NASA’s Applied Sciences Advisory Committee.   


Ms. Green has devoted significant personal time and energy to supporting and promoting professions within remote sensing, mapping, and photogrammetry along with providing leadership to professional societies.  Notably, Ms. Green is the first woman to have received the highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, from the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).  Ms. Green has also served as president of ASPRS and the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors.


Group Award:  The Landsat 5 Flight Operations Team 


The Landsat 5 success story is a culmination of many factors, chief among them the extraordinary talent and dedication of the Landsat 5 Flight Operations Team (Team).  Without its skill and dedication, the mission would have never achieved nearly 30 years of operation, and the world’s land remote sensing data record would be far less rich. 


The Landsat 5 mission was launched on March 1, 1984, the fifth in a series of Earth observation satellites developed, launched, and managed in partnership by USGS and NASA.  No one could anticipate at that time that this mission would eventually enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running Earth observation satellite, finally decommissioned after more than 29 years on June 5, 2013.  Such an extraordinarily successful record was achieved thanks to the men and women of the Team. 


The Team consistently prevented substantive loss of critical observations for Earth scientists, application users, and decision-makers.  In its lifetime, Landsat 5 was the first satellite to image the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, to detail the extent of tropical deforestation, and to make the critical connection between the first Landsat images of the 1970s to those taken in the 2000s. The achievements of the Landsat 5 mission are long and storied, and the efforts undertaken by the USGS, NASA, and the Team are integral to the history of the mission. 


Throughout its life, the satellite and payloads battled numerous anomalies which put the mission at risk.  However, while many of those challenges might have brought the mission to an end, the Team found novel, creative approaches to resolve the issues, allowing Landsat 5 to continue operations into its third decade. 


In so doing, the Team enabled the establishment and continuation of a worldwide “gold standard” for image quality and coverage that has come to epitomize the Landsat satellites.  The efforts of the entire Team were outstanding, making its members highly deserving of the William T. Pecora Award.  Without a highly organized and successful Team, the mission – and its long record of remote sensing science contributions to humanity – could not have lasted so long.