Landsat Program turns 40

Landsat, the moderate-resolution imagery satellite program that we all know and love, turns forty today. In 1972, Landsat 1 was launched with new technologies that along with its successors would lead the world, over the intervening years, to a better understanding of the environment, human impacts, and, perhaps most importantly today, human/environment interaction.

With access to the ever increasing spectral resolution through the MultiSpectral Sensor (MSS) and Thematic Mapper (TM) instrument packs we discovered, mapped, and used information about longterm, and short-term, change to reflect on everything from land use and land cover to soil moisture and water issues to viewing these multiband images and the landscape they represent as art. While the Landsat Program is not alone in these endeavors, it does deserve special recognition for its longevity, durability (Landsat 5, a workhorse even if it isn’t capturing TM data any longer), and initiative in leading many areas of the remote sensing/earth observation industry of today.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is its accessibility. From getting disks from EROS Data Center to recent initiatives that brought the referenced data online for download, the Landsat program has helped industry, researchers, teachers, and students all look at the world in a new way, often with a broader perspective.

Here’s to the Landsat Program’s first 40 years, and, with the much anticipated launch of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (or simply Landsat 8) just around the corner in 2013, here is to many more years of moderate-resolution data to come.

Happy Birthday Landsat!


Written by

Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.