Landsat 9, NASA’s new satellite will look down on the Earth’s Landscape from now onwards. A joint mission with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat 9 lifted off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3E at 2:12 p.m. EDT Monday.
After the launch, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said; “NASA uses the unique assets of our own unprecedented fleet, as well as the instruments of other nations, to study our own planet and its climate systems. With a 50-year data bank to build on, Landsat 9 will take this historic and invaluable global program to the next level. We look forward to working with our partners at the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior again on Landsat because we never stop advancing our work to understand our planet.”
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said that the successful launch was a major milestone in the nearly 50-year joint partnership between USGS and NASA. “As the impacts of the climate crisis intensify in the United States and across the globe, Landsat 9 will provide data and imagery to help make science-based decisions on key issues including water use, wildfire impacts, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat, and tropical deforestation” Haaland said.
The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972. Since then, NASA has always kept a Landsat in orbit to collect images of the physical material covering our planet’s surface and changes to land usage, an official release said. The images allowed researchers to monitor phenomena including agricultural productivity, forest extent and health, water quality, coral reef habitat health, and glacier dynamics, it said.
Meanwhile, Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA Karen St. Germain pointed out; “The Landsat mission is like no other. For nearly 50 years, Landsat satellites observed our home planet, providing an unparalleled record of how its surface has changed over timescales from days to decades.
Landsat 9 joins its sister satellite, Landsat 8, in orbit. Working in tandem, the two satellites will collect images spanning the entire planet every eight days, the release said. The release quoted associate administrator for science at NASA Thomas Zurbuchen as saying that Landsat 9 would be the new eyes in the sky when it comes to observing the changing planet.
Working in tandem with the other Landsat satellites, as well as the European Space Agency partners, Landsat 9 will give a more comprehensive look at Earth than ever before. With these satellites working together in orbit, the scientists said that observations of any given place on the planet would be got every two days. This is incredibly important for tracking things like crop growth and helping decision makers monitor the overall health of Earth and its natural resources., said Zurbuchen.
The instruments aboard Landsat 9 – the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) – measure 11 wavelengths of light reflected or radiated off Earth’s surface, in the visible spectrum as well as other wavelengths beyond what our eyes can detect. As the satellite orbits, these instruments will capture scenes across a swath of 115 miles (185 kilometers). Each pixel in these images represents an area about 98 feet (30 meters) across, about the size of a baseball infield. At that high a resolution, resource managers will be able to identify most crop fields in the United States.
“Launches are always exciting, and today was no exception,” said Jeff Masek, NASA Land sat 9 project scientist. But the best part for me, as a scientist, will be when the satellite starts delivering the data that people are waiting for adding to Landsat’s legendary reputation in the data user community.” The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, processes and stores data from the instruments, continuously adding that information to the five decades of data from all of the Landsat satellites. All Landsat images and the embedded data are free and publicly available, a policy that has resulted in more than 100 million downloads since its inception in 2008.