NASA successfully launched the world’s latest Earth-observing satellite aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California today, crystallizing hopes that US scientists will be able to maintain and enhance a continuous environmental-monitoring record that dates back more than four decades.
As discussed in our earlier coverage, the launch of Landsat 8 was a decade in the making and caps an even longer debate about how and at times whether to continue the programme. And the new satellite arrives none too soon. After nearly 29 years of service, Landsat 5 made its final transmission last month, earning an official place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-operating Earth-observation satellite. Landsat 6 failed upon launch in 1993, and Landsat 7 is nearly 14 years old and partially blind.
Equipped with new and improved sensors, Landsat 8 is scheduled to begin operations within 90 days, although the first snapshots could arrive within a few weeks.