Landsat 5 Satellite Sets Guinness World Record
Inundated patches of shallow Lake Eyre in the desert country of northern South Australia. Captured by Landsat 5 on August 5, 2006.
Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS
After almost three decades in orbit, the Landsat 5 satellite has set a new world record as the longest-operating Earth observation satellite. According to NASA, the Guinness World Records confirmed the title to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. via email.
Landsat 5 was launched on March 1, 1984 with an initial expected mission of three years, which ended up lasting 29 years. The satellite has circled Earth more than 150,000 times and snapped more than 2.5 million images of our planet’s surface using two main instruments: a multispectral scanner system and a thematic mapper.
Landsat 5 withstood its share of challenges in space such as battery and star tracker failures and loss of on-board data recording. But the satellite’s flight control team was able to find solutions to those issues throughout its almost three-decade mission. However, Landsat 5 recently suffered a failure in a spare gyroscope and NASA announced its retirement in late December last year.
"Landsat 5 saved the Landsat program," Jim Irons, LDCM project scientist, said in a statement. "This satellite’s longevity preserved the Landsat program through the loss of Landsat 6 in 1993, preventing the specter of a data gap before the launch of Landsat 7 in 1999."
The entire Landsat program, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), had its 40th anniversary last year. Throughout this time, data collected by this partnership has helped scientists document and understand the changing face of our planet and humans’ impact on it, from ice loss to natural disasters to urban expansion.
The program has eight Landsat satellites in orbit, the newest one, Landsat 8, was recently launched on Feb. 11 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5.