Monitoring the land environment is a key aspect of adapting to global change. Because humans rely on the land surface for food, fiber, and water resources, understanding the impacts of climate change on the land are particularly urgent. In turn, changes in vegetation and land cover affect climate through biogeochemical (carbon) and physical (albedo, water flux) pathways.
First launched in 1972, he Landsat program has provided our longest continuous record of land surface and vegetation dynamics from space. The current program is a collaboration between NASA, responsible for building and launching the satellites, and the US Geological Survey, responsible for mission operations and data distribution. The current operational missions (Landsat-7 and Landsat-8) were launched in 1999 and 2013, respectively. Landsat-8 includes two instruments: the reflective-band Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). These systems represent technical advances in terms of spectral coverage and radiometric quality compared to previous Landsat sensors. In addition, Landsat-8 currently acquires about 725 images per day, far exceeding the coverage provided by Landsat-7. New applications of Landsat imagery leverage these technical advances as well as high-end cloud computing resources. As a result, continental and global biophysical products at 30m resolution are becoming common, and new time series approaches are revealing the response of land systems to short- and long-term climate forcing
In this presentation we will review the status of the Landsat program, and also discuss future directions. The President's FY16 budget request for NASA articulated a Sustainable Land Imaging Program that would ensure future Landsat continuity. The first element of the program, a Landsat-9 mission, is envisioned as a rebuild of Landsat-8, and is currently under development. The mission is intended to be launched no later than 2023. Beyond Landsat-9, the evolution of future missions is also under discussion, and could leverage new technologies to reduce mission costs and improve spectral capabilities and/or temporal revisit.