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Celebrating 50 years of Landsat Vision

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A Vision to Observe Earth for the Benefit of All

On September 21, 1966, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall announced that the DOI was launching "Project EROS (Earth Resources Observation Satellites)".

Secretary Udall's vision to create “a program aimed at gathering facts about the natural resources of the earth from earth-orbiting satellites” was an idealistic goal at the time, but on July 23, 1972, the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. In 1975, it was renamed Landsat 1. Since then, six more Landsat satellites have followed, collectively capturing millions of images of Earth, and creating an impressive archive that has been available at no charge since 2008.

Stewart Udall
Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior (1961 to 1969)

Over the past five decades, the Landsat Program and other international Earth-observation programs have matured. Udall’s vision gave the world the confidence to create satellite systems to help people understand the intricate nature of our planet from a new perspective. Landsat satellites monitor forest health, mobilize food resources to drought-stricken areas, observe climate change impact on polar ice caps, monitor crop health and stress, measure the impacts of carbon escaping into the atmosphere, and map rates, causes, and consequences of land cover change.

This December 2007 video provides a sense of America's long-term commitment to conservation, illustrating the depth of the USGS EROS archive and the contributions of Secretary Stewart Udall.

The USGS Fact Sheets below have been created to celebrate 50 years of success of Secretary Udall’s vision and bring attention to the societal benefits of the Landsat Program:

A Vision for Protecting American Lands

Secretary Udall was also very fond of the outdoors and the beauty of the Earth. During his tenure, he worked to expand the National Park System (NPS). He designated Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia as a national seashore, and turned Ellis Island in New York Harbor into a national monument. Under Udall’s authority, four national parks, six national monuments, nine national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, 50 wildlife refuges, and eight national seashores were created.

In a series called "Image of the Week", USGS is highlighting parks Udall brought into the NPS, as well as others that he cherished and oversaw as Interior Secretary:

To celebrate 50 years of success, NASA and USGS have planned a series of events in 2016 culminating on September 21, with an anniversary celebration in Washington, DC. Pictures and/or other media of this celebration will be made available on this webpage and on social media.


Landsat represents the world's longest continuously acquired collection of space-based moderate-resolution land remote sensing data. Four decades of imagery provides a unique resource for those who work in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, and global change research. Landsat images are also invaluable for emergency response and disaster relief.


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Landsat Updates

The Landsat Update is an informal communication tool, prepared periodically and distributed electronically to USGS Landsat partners, to provide information about Landsat activities and related topics of interest.

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