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World Observer

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In California, the Earth-monitoring Landsat 9 spacecraft is launched

ByJerzy Nawrocki

Oct 13, 2021

The newest in a succession of US satellites that have been recording human and natural changes on the Earth’s surface for decades was deployed into orbit from California, ensuring continuing monitoring in the age of climate change. Landsat 9 was launched into space at 11:12 a.m. on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from a foggy Vandenberg Space Force Base. More than an hour later, the satellite successfully split from the rocket’s upper stage.

Landsat 9 is a NASA-USGS initiative that will function in tandem with its predecessor, the Landsat 8, to prolong a roughly 50-year record of coastal and land region observations that began in 1972 with the deployment of the first Landsat satellite. The orbital route of Landsat 9 will be taken over by Landsat 7, which is going to be discontinued. The image sensor onboard Landsat 9 is going to record visible and other areas of the spectrum. It also features a thermal sensor that measures the temperature of the surface.

According to NASA, the Landsat programme has the oldest continuous record of the Earth observation from space, capturing variations in the planet’s landscape that does range from expansion of cities to movements of glaciers. Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary who attended the launch at Vandenberg, said the Landsat programme provides “a rich type of data” that aids people’s daily lives and is critical in combating climate change.

“We’re in the midst of the climate catastrophe right now,” Haaland stated during the NASA Television interview. “We see it every day Hurricane Ida, drought, wildfires, hurricanes which devastated sections of the South and reached all the way up to New England.” “Images such as the ones which Landsat 9 will return to us will aid us greatly in how we are tackling climate change, striving to make certain that we can create the perfect decisions possible, so that people have water in the future, and we can be able to grow our food in the future,” Haaland said.

As per Jeff Masek, project scientist of Landsat 9 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Landsat programme has accumulated nearly 9 million multispectral photographs of Earth’s land and coastal regions. At a pre-launch briefing, he said, “We can really chronicle and comprehend the changes that have taken place to land environment over all this period from human activity as well as natural phenomena.”

The data can be used in a variety of ways to better understand and manage Earth’s resources. “Landsat is our best tool for understanding rates of the tropical deforestation… as well as numerous forest dynamics like insect outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires, and how those disturbances recover over time,” Masek added. He added that Landsat is also important for monitoring agricultural and food security.

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