February 11, 2013
Landsat 8 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California February 11, beginning a mission to constantly collect data about surface conditions on Earth. The mission puts more sensitive instruments in orbit, opening the latest chapter in Earth observation.
Landsat 8 will be “continuing the 40-year legacy of preserving Earth’s natural resources from space,” said the flight commentator as an Atlas V rocket lifted off the launch pad into a clear California sky at 10:02 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Within minutes of launch, the satellite separated from the rocket and quickly achieved a speed greater than 6 kilometers per second, soaring over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of almost 300 kilometers. Within a half hour, the craft was nearing Antarctica.
The satellite is the eighth in a scientific program that began in 1972.
“Landsat is a centerpiece of NASA’s Earth science program,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, watching the launch from the ground. “This data is a key tool for monitoring climate change and has led to the improvement of human and biodiversity health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture monitoring.”
The Operational Land Imager and the Thermal Infrared Sensor are two instruments onboard the newest entry in the Landsat series. These instruments are more advanced than those orbiting in earlier versions of Landsat and will allow more sensitive observations of the land and its changes over time.
The U.S. Geological Survey collects and manages the data returned by Landsat satellites, archiving the material and making it available to all over the Internet.