Landsat 9 is the latest satellite in the Landsat series, launched on Sept. 27, 2021. This joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is a critical component to the international strategy for monitoring the health and state of the Earth.
Recently NASA shared the first Landsat 9 images of Earth. These images show how the mission will help people manage vital natural resources and understand the impacts of climate change.
These first light images show Detroit, Michigan, with neighboring Lake St. Clair, the intersection of cities and beaches along a changing Florida coastline, and images from Navajo Country in Arizona that will add to the wealth of data helping us monitor crop health and manage irrigation water. The new images also provided data about the changing landscapes of the Himalayas in High Mountain Asia and the coastal islands and shorelines of Northern Australia.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “Landsat 9’s first images capture critical observations about our changing planet and will advance this joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that provides critical data about Earth’s landscapes and coastlines seen from space. This program has the proven power to not only improve lives but also save lives. NASA will continue to work with USGS to strengthen and improve accessibility to Landsat data so decision-makers in America – and around the world – better understand the devastation of the climate crisis, manage agricultural practices, preserve precious resources and respond more effectively to natural disasters.”
Landsat 9 is an advanced version of its predecessor, Landsat 8. It transmits data with higher radiometric resolution back down to Earth, thereby detecting more subtle differences, especially over darker areas like water or dense forests.
It can differentiate more than 16,000 shades of a given wavelength color. With such enhanced sensitivity, it allows users to see much more subtle changes than ever before.
With its two imaging instruments, the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2), Landsat 9 will offer essential information about crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat, urban expansion, and more.
Karen St. Germain, Earth Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said, “The data and images from Landsat 9 are expanding our capability to see how Earth has changed over decades. In a changing climate, continuous and free access to Landsat data, and the other data in NASA’s Earth-observing fleet, help data users, including city planners, farmers, and scientists, plan for the future.”
USGS Acting Director Dr. David Applegate said, “The incredible first pictures from the Landsat 9 satellite are a glimpse into the data that will help us make science-based decisions on key issues including water use, wildfire impacts, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat, and tropical deforestation. This historical moment is the culmination of our long partnership with NASA on Landsat 9’s development, launch, and initial operations, which will better support environmental sustainability, climate change resiliency, and economic growth – all while expanding an unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes.”
The images, all acquired on Oct. 31, are available online. Landsat 9 data will be available to the public, for free, from USGS’s website once the satellite begins normal operations.