NASA, USGS Release First Landsat 9 Images

The first image collected by Landsat 9, on Oct. 31, 2021, shows mangroves along the northwest coast of Australia clustered in protected inlets and bays on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Fluffy cumulus clouds and high-altitude cirrus clouds hover nearby.
Mangroves are prominent along the northwest coast of Australia. The first image collected by Landsat 9, on Oct. 31, 2021, shows mangroves clustered in protected inlets and bays on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Fluffy cumulus clouds and high-altitude cirrus clouds hover nearby. The aqua colors of the shallow near-shore waters give way to the deep, dark blues of the ocean.
Credits: NASA

A composite of four images taken by two instruments carried by Landsat 9.
Landsat 9 carries two instruments designed to work together to capture a broad range of wavelengths: the Operational Land Imager 2 and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2. Data from both instruments are shown in this image.
Credits: NASA

Landsat 9, a joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that launched Sept. 27, 2021, has collected its first light images of Earth.

The images, all acquired Oct. 31, are available online. They provide a preview of how the mission will help people manage vital natural resources and understand the impacts of climate change, adding to Landsats unparalleled data record that spans nearly 50 years of space-based Earth observation.

Landsat 9s 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, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. 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.

These first light images shows 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.

Landsat 9 is similar in design to its predecessor, Landsat 8, which was launched in 2013 and remains in orbit, but features several improvements. The new satellite transmits data with higher radiometric resolution back down to Earth, allowing it to detect more subtle differences, especially over darker areas like water or dense forests. For example, Landsat 9 can differentiate more than 16,000 shades of a given wavelength color; Landsat 7, the satellite being replaced, detects only 256 shades. This increased sensitivity will allow Landsat users to see much more subtle changes than ever before.

First light is a big milestone for Landsat users its the first chance to really see the kind of quality that Landsat 9 provides. And they look fantastic, said Jeff Masek NASAs Landsat 9 project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. When we have Landsat 9 operating in coordination with Landsat 8, its going to be this wealth of data, allowing us to monitor changes to our home planet every eight days.

Landsat 9 carries two instruments that capture imagery: the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2), which detects visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared light in nine wavelengths, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2), which detects thermal radiation in two wavelengths to measure Earths surface temperatures and its changes.

These instruments will provide Landsat 9 users with essential information about crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat, urban expansion, and more.

The data and images from Landsat 9 are expanding our capability to see how Earth has changed over decades, said Karen St. Germain, Earth Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. In a changing climate, continuous and free access to Landsat data, and the other data in NASAs Earth observing fleet, helps data users, including city planners, farmers and scientists, plan for the future.

NASAs Landsat 9 team is conducting a 100-day check-out period that involves testing the satellites systems and subsystems and calibrating its instruments in preparation for handing the mission over to USGS in January. USGS will operate Landsat 9 along with Landsat 8, and together the two satellites will collect approximately 1,500 images of Earths surface every day, covering the globe every eight days.

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, saidUSGS Acting Director Dr. David Applegate.Thishistoric momentis the culmination ofourlongpartnership with NASA on Landsat 9s 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.

Landsat 9 data will be available to the public, for free, from USGSs website once the satellite begins normal operations.

NASA manages the Landsat 9 mission development. Teams from NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, also built and tested the TIRS-2 instrument. NASAs Launch Services Program, based at the agencys Kennedy Space Center in Florida, managed the missions launch. The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center will operate the mission and manage the ground system, including maintaining the Landsat archive. Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, built and tested the OLI-2 instrument. United Launch Alliance is the rocket provider for Landsat 9s launch. Northrop Grumman in Gilbert, Arizona, built the Landsat 9 spacecraft, integrated it with instruments, and tested it.

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