Landsat 5, Oldest Earth Observation Satellite Is Stepping Down In History

By Vamien McKalin email: v.mckalin@mobilenapps.com | Dec 28, 2012 07:21 PM EST

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An era is coming to an end for Landsat 5, the longest running Earth observing satellite. The satellite, which has been operating above Earth since 1984, has done all that has been asked of it and now it is set to retire and go down in history.

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Landsat 5, which is expected to go offline in the next three months, has managed to circle the Earth 150,000 times in its nearly 30 years in space. The satellite also managed to capture 2.5 million images of the planet's surface in its time, a remarkable achievement in what is considered a prolific career.

"Any major event since 1984 that left a mark on this Earth larger than a football field was likely recorded by Landsat 5, whether it was a hurricane, a tsunami, a wildfire, deforestation, or an oil spill," noted U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Director Marcia McNutt in a statement. "We look forward to a long and productive continuation of the Landsat program, but it is unlikely there will ever be another satellite that matches the outstanding longevity of Landsat 5."

The USGS says Landsat 5 captured images of the aftermath of Sept. 11, and when Barrack Obama became President of the U.S. in 2009.

All is not lost for the Landsat project, as NASA is preparing to launch Landsat 8 called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission in Feb. 2013. The satellite is currently at its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is being prepped for its Feb. 2013 launch into space.

To celebrate Landsat 5 achievements, it would be cool if many of the images it took of Earth were released for public consumption. However, it is unlikely that will ever happen but one can always hope.

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