Landsat 8 Set to Extend Long Run of Observing Earth
Landsat 8 went live a few months ago. For the last few months NASA has been getting it into the correct orbit, monitoring the solar panels, and collecting a few months worth of scenes. The satellite will orbit the earth every 99 minutes and produces scenes "12,000 square miles per scene while describing land cover in units the size of a baseball diamond." It completely covers the earth every 16 days.
They recently transferred operation of it to USGS where they will continue their long tradition of publicly available scenes (watch out though, even compressed they are 1GB). Speaking of long traditions, the Landsat family of satellite missions celebrated it's 40th anniversary last fall. I will try to remember this next time one of the "old timers" at work tries to tell me how "we didn't have all that satellite stuff back in my day." The amazing success of these missions should serve as a template for future government backed/financed satellite programs. The scenes produced by these missions have driving innovation in agriculture, water resource, climate change, and population growth research. It has benefited government and private sector, non-profit and education. Yours truly used Landsat 4/5 scenes from the 90s and 00s for his thesis. And it is all free to the public.
I am looking forward to what information the GIS world will develop over the next few years using the data provided by this delivery truck sized box flying
For more information on the Landsat 8 mission visit this page http://landsat.usgs.gov/LDCM_Landsat8.php