Environmental Protection

Landsat 5 Decommissioned

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has announced the decommissioning of Landsat 5 after 29 years in orbit, the longest operating Earth observing satellite in history.

The Landsat 5 will be decommissioned over the coming months, bringing to a close the longest-operating Earth observing satellite mission in history. The Landsat 5 mission has been an extraordinary success, providing unprecedented contributions to the global record of land change. The USGS has brought the aging satellite back from the brink of failure on several occasions, but a recent gyroscope failure has left no option but to end the mission.

Launched by NASA in 1984, Landsat 5 orbited the planet over 150,000 times while transmitting over 2.5 million images of land surface conditions around the world during its 29 years in operation.

"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 and the USGS team, who launched it and kept it flying well beyond its expected lifetime," stated Anne Castle, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. "The Landsat program is the 'gold standard" of satellite observation, providing an invaluable public record of our planet that helps us tackle critical land, water, and environmental issues."

For more than a quarter of a century, Landsat 5 recorded the impact of natural hazards, climate variability and change, land use practices, development and urbanization, ecosystem evolution, increasing demand for water and energy resources, and changing agricultural demands worldwide.

Vital observations of the Mount Saint Helens eruption, Antarctica, the Kuwaiti oil fires, the Chernobyl disaster, rainforest depletion, major wildfires and floods, urban growth, global crop production, and ice shelf expansion and retreat have helped increase our understanding and awareness of the impact of humans on the land.

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