This Landsat 9 (Bands 4, 3, 2) image captures a view of the coastline of Bangladesh over the Bay of Bengal on February 8, 2022. Photo: Michelle A. Bouchard, using Landsat data via USGS
The Landsat program has collected over 10 million satellite images showing the state of the Earth’s surface over the past 50 years. Since its first launch on July 23, 1972, seven other satellites – three of which are still operational while one has failed in orbit – have captured the extraordinary glory of our planet, and human activities have caused its Have seen drastic changes.
The result of a collaboration between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Landsat satellite captures an image path 185 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Thanks to their presence, we can see the presence of freely swaying deserts, remote islands, vast urban areas, and rivers with branches resembling blood vessels.
In addition to providing data for scientific purposes, the program inspired the “Earth as Art” project, which highlights their most captivating scenes. However, these images are also a reminder of the huge role humans play in influencing the Earth’s surface. Landsat is monitoring increasingly severe wildfires, and measuring storm damage. Satellite images also show dry lakes, erosion of coastal land and widespread deforestation.
Landsat 1 is relatively simple compared to its more modern and sophisticated successor satellites. However, the spacecraft, which was retired in 1978, will forever be referred to as the “wave of the future”.
“The satellite has certainly revolutionized the way we observe Earth over time,” Jim Irons, a Landsat program scientist for decades at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said when contacted by his colleague Temilola Fatoyinbo.
“Even though we now have a lot of high-resolution data that’s a lot more surprising, we can still compare it to Landsat,” said Fatoyinbo, a scientist who studies coastal ecosystems at the Goddard Biosphere Science Laboratory. “Only with Landsat can we compare and observe the same place on Earth over time.”
Conditions on Earth as seen by Landsat 1 have changed greatly, and this is visible in every recent satellite shot down until Landsat 9. Scientists have warned of the dire impact of human-caused climate change, which comes from emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil burning. Fuel Its extraordinary results have been documented in an unprecedented manner over the past 50 years.
Irons said Landsat can be very useful in understanding the impacts of climate change in a variety of ways, including “glacier melt, deforestation and destruction of the Amazon forest, urban development, [serta] Ecosystem changes that reflect all climate change”.
“For me, who focuses on studying coastal areas, I’ve had a lot of changes,” Fatoyinbo said. “It is equally surprising to see deforestation and change in coastal areas.”
Landsat also takes note of how nature is being rapidly eroded by human interests. Urban development and clearing of agricultural land is causing a lot of damage around the world. It may be difficult for humans to accept these dire changes, but Landsat’s catalog of satellite imagery provides the final rationale for actions and solutions needed to combat anthropogenic stress.
Landsat not only provides a stunning view of the planet from space, but also highlights its fragility and the vulnerability of its inhabitants in a cosmic context. This program invites us to reflect on what we have done so far and how important the Earth is to our lives.
“We are now focusing a lot on anthropogenic impacts around the world. A great deal of time has been spent looking at the aftermath of disasters, wildfires and urban development. But sometimes, photographs of ‘Earth as Art’ have been It’s nice to look back and realize how beautiful it is to see Earth from space,” Irons concluded. “With the Landsat data, we can all imagine what an astronaut feels like looking at Earth from above.”