Earth Observation Satellite With Longest Operational Life to Retire
Artist’s drawing of the Landsat 5 satellite launched in 1984.
Image credit: USGS
The longest-running Earth observation satellite, Landsat 5 will retire soon, according to its operator, the U.S. Geological Survey. The spacecraft, launched in 1984, was originally set for a three-year mission.
In its 29 years in space, Landsat 5 orbited our planet more than 150,000 times and gathered more than 2.5 million images of the Earth’s surface. The satellite snapped images of important events for our civilization such as the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Chernobyl disaster, deforestation in Mexico, and even the crowds descending on Washington, DC, to witness President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. According to USGS officials, it is unlikely that any other satellite will ever match the outstanding longevity of Landsat 5.
The Landsat program, a collaboration between NASA and the USGS, reached its 40th anniversary in 2012 with a new and improved satellite. Landsat 8 is scheduled to launch in February 2013 by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket. The liftoff will occur from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where the satellite is currently being prepared for launch.
The fist steps to take Landsat 5 out of its operational orbit to a lower one will begin in January 2013.