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NASA Launches New Earth Observation Satellite To Continue 40-Year Legacy

"Landsat has been delivering invaluable scientific information about our planet for more than forty years," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "It's an honor to be a part of today's launch to ensure this critical data will continue to help us better understand our natural resources and help people like water managers, farmers, and resource managers make informed decisions."

The use of Landsat data been transformed in recent years by advancements in computing power and the decision by USGS to allow free online access to the information. This revolution has allowed scientists to detect changes over time to our planet and has enabled a host of applications based on Landsat measurements to be developed by researchers, the private sector, and state, local, and tribal governments.

LDCM continues that legacy with more and better observations. The spacecraft carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). The measurements will be compatible with data from past Landsat satellites, but the LDCM instruments use advanced technology to improve reliability, sensitivity, and data quality.

"LDCM is the best Landsat satellite ever built," said Jim Irons, a LDCM project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The technology will advance and improve the array of scientific investigations and resource management applications supported by Landsat images. I anticipate new knowledge and applications to emerge with an increasing demand for the data."

OLI will continue observations currently made by Landsat 7 in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It also will take measurements in two new bands, one to observe high-altitude cirrus clouds and another to observe atmospheric aerosols as well as water quality in lakes and shallow coastal waters. OLI's new design has fewer moving parts than instruments on previous Landsat satellites.

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