Last month saw the 28-year-old LANDSAT 5 satellite have its operations suspended, while the USGS Flight Operations Team “continues to investigate options for the resumption of imaging.” Landsat 5’s operations were originally halted in November 2011 due to a rapidly degrading electronic component.
Since 1972, the Landsat 5 satellite, jointly managed by the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, has provided the longest-standing record of imaging Earth, allowing scientists to continually assess its characteristics in order to benefit society.
As part of the Landsat Program, Landsat 5 exceeded its designed life by more than 22 years. USGS Director Marcia McNutt says there’s a daunting task “of attempting to recover operations of malfunctioning, three-decade-old components in an unmanned satellite orbiting more than 400 miles above Earth.”
Acquiring imagery over the Northern Hemisphere will be the priority of Landsat 5 if its Thematic Mapper (TM) sensor continues to show no signs of improvement.
USGS is also considering focusing on the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) which collects in four bands at 79-meter resolution. If USGS is unable to restore either TM or MSS, it will decommission the satellite.
The future of the Landsat mission continues with Landsat 7, which was launched in 1999, followed by the scheduled launch of Landsat 8, also known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LCDM) in January 2013.