Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Landsat is Forty Years Old

If you use Google Earth, or any of the other images generated from satellites there is a strong chance that some of these come from the Landsat group of imaging satellites.

A standard procedure for many in the agricultural and environmental fields is use of these images for a wide range of purposes.  There are other systems eg SPOT which is French, but Landsat was the first and still is a major source of images.

The first Landsat satellite went into orbit 40 years ago on July 23, and during the past four decades, a series of seven different "birds" have trained a watchful eye on Earth from just about the most wicked vantage point around.

The program's youngest eye in the sky, Landsat 7, has been flying since 1999 and will be joined next year by the next-generation Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite, or LDCM. The LDCM features up-to-date thermal infrared sensors and land-imaging equipment that will make it a full-blown orbiting observatory.

The Earth observation program was created at the urging of US Interior Secretary Stewart Udall during the Johnson administration -- Udall had seen a photo from space of pollution spewing from power plants in his home state of Arizona and saw the potential for learning about our own planet that seeing it from a distance held.

There are some classic images on the site here -http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57477494-1/landsat-at-40-images-from-the-longest-running-eye-in-the-sky/?tag=nl.e703

We tend to take satellite imagery for granted now, but it is only forty years since any existed.  And the image quality has improved very dramatically over this period.  Some amazing photos are around.

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