NASA Podcasts

25 Years of Landsat 5
03.02.09
 
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Narrator: The Landsat series of satellites were designed to observe the changing landscapes of our planet. For those watching the launch of Landsat 5 on a clear, mild March 1st in 1984, few could have imagined that the Earth-observing satellite with a three year design life would still be in operation a quarter of a century later.

Berrien Moore III: If someone had said, "Let's have a design life of 25 years." They would have said, "It's impossible. It is impossible." All of the engineers would have said that.

Darrel William: It's got to be the most incredible Earth-observing mission ever, both on the quality of the data, the global survey aspects of the data, and then the incredible longevity.

Narrator: In 2009, on its 25th birthday Landsat 5 has traveled over 130,000 times around the Earth, something like three and a half million miles, while gathering more than 700,000 images. Even today, Landsat 5 continues its mission sending back a steady stream of data, an unparralleled history of our changing planet.

Berrien Moore III: I'm just forever enchanted with the images, whether they're of deltas, or the coastlines, or the canyons, it's just beautiful. We ought to tip our hat every day to the designers of Landsat 5, and the people who made it.

Jim Irons: Well it's remarkable, and there is certainly a component of luck involved in that. But what I think the longevity really reflects is the commitment and the decication and the skill of the team of people and the team of institutions that developed the system.

Steven Covington: When you think about it, this is a technology that was designed in the 70s that really has a throughput, a capacity, that equals that of LDCM which is going to be the next mission.

Dennis Helder: Well the flight ops team has done a fantastic job making sure that every redundancy and every alternative route or mode of operation has been captured and utilized to its fullest extent.

Narrator: In total, the engineers who have kept Landsat 5 operational have overcome 22 seperate mission anomalies. They've sustained Landsat 5 through the failed launch of Landsat 6 and political reorganizations and delayed launch of Landsat 7, making Landsat 5's longevity crucial for the scientists who use its data.

Sam Gowar: It's the keystone of the mission because it lasted so long, it actually got us through many bumps in the road, in now 35 plus years of observations. Without Landsat 5, I'm not sure we would have had a Landsat 7.

Brad Doorn: I'm a true believer though that a good mission sells itself and one reason Landsat 5 lived on was the need to have it. and the engineer's motivation to keep it going. And I believe strongly that a big part of it was the mission that Landsat holds and that transcends a lot of things.

Narrator: For all its achievements, scientific and technical, NASA and USGS wish a happy 25th birthday to the Landsat 5 spacecraft. › View Now