The success of a satellite operated right here in KELOLAND is sparking renewed interest in land images and data. Landsat 8 rocketed into space a year ago. Shortly after, control of the satellite was handed over to officials at the EROS Center north of Sioux Falls.
A year ago, NASA launched Landsat 8 into space from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Earth-observing satellite is part of a legacy of satellites that have gathered images of the entire world for more than 40 years.
"Higher quality, higher accuracies. I think that we're going to be finding that as the scientific community explores the data more and more, there are going to be applications that we didn't even dream of before that we're going to be able to do with this information," scientist Jim Vogelmann said.
EROS Center, north of Sioux Falls, is in charge of archiving that information. Traveling at 17,000 miles an hour in space, sensors on board Landsat 8 make more than 400 data-filled images available every day.
While Landsat 8 launched in February, it didn't start collecting data until April. Since then, it has collected more than 160,000 images.
"Being able to look over time as to how that has changed is just a tremendous thing to be able to be a part of," EROS Director Frank Kelly said.
"You know this sensor is really great. The data are really great. When combined with the information from the past that becomes especially important and valuable," Vogelmann said.
Scientists use the data to monitor fire damage, floods and drought conditions. They also use the images to characterize agricultural lands in order to better understand the world around us. Most of Landsat 8's sensors are expected to last five years, meaning developing new satellites is a continuous process.
"We hope that it will last longer than that but in the meantime we need to think about designing the next set of sensors so that we can continue with this legacy," Vogelmann said.
EROS Center also operates Landsat 7 which was launched in 1999.