Landsat V has landed into the Guinness World Records as the longest-operating Earth observation satellite. Launched on March 1, 1985, Landsat V completed more than 150,000 orbits and sent back over 2.5 million images of the Earth’s surface via the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) and the Thematic Mapper (TM). On December 21, 2012, Landsat V was decommissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) after the spacecraft suffered gyroscope failure.
Throughout its 29-year history in space, Landsat V faced its share of challenges, including battery and star tracker failures, as well as the loss of on-board data recording, NASA officials said. The satellite's flight control team found solutions to those issues.
In a statement, Anne Castle, Department of the Interior assistant secretary for Water and Science, stated, “This is the end of an era for a remarkable satellite, and the fact that it flew for almost three decades is a testament to the NASA engineers who launched it and the USGS team who kept it flying well beyond its expected lifetime.”
The Landsat V’s longevity preserved the Landsat program through the loss of Landsat 6 in 1993, preventing the specter of a data gap before the launch of Landsat 7 in 1999.
Image via NASA
The above Landsat V image shows the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, one of many vanishing around the world. Glacier retreat is one of the most direct and understandable effects of climate change. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the entire Landsat program, collaboration by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, which has helped scientists document the changing face of our planet and humans' impact on it, from ice loss to natural disasters to urban expansion. To date, NASA has launched eight Landsat satellites under the program, which is a joint effort with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey