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What is Landsat and when did it begin?


The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

In a 1966 press release, Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, announced the start of “Project EROS”, a programed “aimed at gathering facts about the natural resources of the Earth from earth-observing satellites carrying sophisticated remote sensing observation instruments.” Secretary Udall named Dr. William T. Pecora, the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, to lead the EROS program.

In cooperation with NASA, on July 23, 1972, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS-1) was launched. It was later renamed Landsat 1. Additional Landsat satellites followed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and in 1999, Landsat 7 was launched. Landsat 8 (initially named Landsat Data Continuity Mission - LDCM) was the most recent satellite to be launched on February 11, 2013.  Landsat 9 is in development, with a launch scheduled for late 2020. The Landsat Missions Timeline page contains more details on each of the missions.

The instruments aboard the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images through the course of the missions, and the data are a valuable resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, forestry, geology, regional planning, and education.

Landsat data are received and downlinked to ground stations worldwide, and are archived at the USGS EROS Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Landsat data products are processed and made available for download to all users at no charge via EarthExplorer, GloVis, and the LandsatLook Viewer.