WASHINGTON, February 11 (RIA Novosti) – The US space agency NASA launched its most advanced earth-observing satellite into space Monday, continuing a four-decade initiative to track from space the effect humans have on the earth’s environment.
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LCDM) “will continue to describe the human impact on Earth, and the impact of Earth on humanity, which is vital for accommodating seven billion people on our planet,” the project’s manager, Ken Schwer, told reporters Friday during a prelaunch briefing.
The LDCM satellite is the eighth in the program to enter orbit. The project, run jointly by NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), has been monitoring trends such as glacial retreat, urban sprawl and forest loss continuously since the first Landsat satellite launch in 1972.
The $855-million spacecraft was launched at 1:02 p.m. EST (1802 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, mounted on a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket.
The satellite—which is roughly the size of a sports utility vehicle—will eventually enter into orbit and be subjected to a series of tests conducted by NASA over the next three months, Space.com reported.
If the initial tests go as planned, operations will then be turned over to the USGS, and the LDCM will then be renamed Landsat 8, the website said.
“The Landsat data will allow us to understand why many natural land change processes are occurring, and what those changes and processes mean for life on land and in coastal areas,” NASA’s mission program executive, David Jarrett, told Space.com.
The satellite is equipped with two instruments used to collect images of the earth’s surface. It is expected to capture some 400 photographs a day, transmitting the images to ground stations in Alaska, South Dakota and Norway.
The satellite will also deliver more data per day and better-quality images than any of its predecessors, NASA officials said.
The spacecraft has enough fuel to last for about a decade, but NASA researchers said they are hopeful the satellite and its instruments will last well beyond its design life.
The new satellite is set to work in conjunction with Landsat 7, which blasted off in April 1999 and is the only other Landsat satellite still in commission.
Together, the two satellites will orbit the globe and provide a complete view of the earth every eight days, researchers said.