Report concerned over Landsat’s future

By on 13 August, 2013

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A report from the US National Research Council, entitled Landsat and Beyond: Sustaining and Enhancing the Nation’s Land Imaging Program, has warned that the future of the 40-year program may be in jeopardy.

The report warned that while the United States pioneered frequent-repeat global imaging, “other nations are now developing systems whose capability rivals or exceeds U.S. systems.”

“National needs require the United States to reassert leadership and maintain and expand capabilities,” states the report. “Space-based land imaging is essential to U.S. national security as it is a critical resource for ensuring U.S. food, energy, health, environmental, and economic interests.”

“The economic, intrinsic, and scientific benefits to the United States of Landsat imagery far exceed the investment in the system.”

The committee that wrote the report is chaired by Jeff Dozier – a professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara – and includes experts in satellite imaging and remote sensing from across the country, including former NASA scientists and officials.

The committee’s primary recommendation is that the federal government establish a sustained and enhanced land imaging program with an overarching national strategy and long-term commitment, including clearly defined program requirements, management responsibilities, and persistent funding.

As noted in the report, the Landsat mission has been aiding the US and other countries – including Australia – by providing snapshots of the Earth’s surface across time. These images have been used by countless agencies, companies, and other bodies for purposes ranging from vegetation estimation, to flood mapping, and a myriad of other uses too numerous to mention.

If the program were to end, it would deal a serious blow to the scientific, academic, and commercial industries in Australia. The problems inherent with Australia’s reliance on other countries’ space infrastructure were recently outlined by John Fairall in his article, Lost in space no more, appearing in the current issue of Position Magazine.

The U.S. National Research Council report is available for purchase here.

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