Black smoke plumes stream into the skies around Kuwait City in April 1991 five weeks after the fires were set. (Photo : NASA's Earth Observator)
The Landsat program had its initial satellite in space on July 23, 1972. Since then, the program has been tracking and recording changes on the Earth's surface via satellite imagery.
It has been 40 years worth of priceless photos the Landsat has acquired and NASA commemorated the anniversary by selecting and compiling a list of its top ten stories or revealing images it had stored up during its four decades of existence.
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The list contains imagery of the devastating Kuwait Oil Fires that were ignited by Iraqi troops as they withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War.
Also, imagery of one of the most significant natural disasters in the U.S. - the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 -was added on to the list.
The advantages of Landsat are straightforward. It can accurately display the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of land in few shots benefiting various endeavors such as human and environmental health, urban planning, agriculture etc.
Of the program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "Landsat has given us a critical perspective on our planet over the long term and will continue to help us understand the big picture of Earth and its changes from space. With this view we are better prepared to take action on the ground and be better stewards of our home."
According to a NASA release, interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar on the other hand said, "Over four decades, data from the Landsat series of satellites have become a vital reference worldwide for advancing our understanding of the science of the land. The 40-year Landsat archive forms an indelible and objective register of America's natural heritage and thus it has become part of this department's legacy to the American people."
Here are NASA's Landsat's top 10 stories.
Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
Kuwait Oil Fires, 1991
Amazon Deforestation, 2000-2010
Shrinking Aral Sea
Columbia Glacier, a Swift Retreat
Remaining Four Stories: