At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the launch pad tower at SLC-3 is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket with the LDCM spacecraft onboard (Photo : NASA/ Kim Shiflett)
NASA launched a new Landsat spacecraft into orbit today, Feb. 11, marking the continuation of a project that has been running on for over 40 years. The spacecraft is now safely in orbit, and will provide scientists and the public a look at Earth itself every 16 days.
"Landsat is the one monitoring system that for the last 40 years has provided every citizen of planet Earth the scale and the resolution to observe - for himself or herself - the changes and the ability of this planet to provide for each and every one of us those services that we require," said Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). "I'm happy to say that thanks to that flawless launch today, the Landsat legacy will live on."
The spacecraft is part of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), which involves both NASA and the USGS. LDCM began in 1972 and once the spacecraft is 438 miles above Earth it will orbit the Earth every 99 minutes and take an image of the entire planet every 16 days.
The images, which are open for use by anybody, can be a useful tool in a variety of areas of research, such as Google Maps or agriculture.
"Our federal programs that map the type and extent of crops needed to understand what the food supply will be and the impact on the market will benefit greatly from this," Thomas Loveland, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Landsat spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3, located in California, at 1:02 p.m. EST.
"The satellite is doing great," said Ken Schwer, LDCM project manager from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Three months after the spacecraft's launch, the USGS will take over control and rename it Landsat 8.