GARRETSON, S.D. (KELO) — A big celebration is taking place this weekend at EROS Data Center in honor of a milestone involving South Dakota’s launch into the Space Age. EROS is celebrating 50 years of warehousing satellite images of earth that are used by scientists from around the globe. A re-dedication ceremony on Friday looked back at the earliest days of EROS.

Fifty years ago, the EROS Data Center sprouted from a farm field in the prairie of South Dakota.

“On a cool morning of April 14, 1972, a mule-drawn plow turned the first earth for the groundbreaking ceremony here at EROS. Do we have the mule, today?” USGS Core Science Systems Associate Director Kevin Gallagher said.

EROS followed in the hoof prints of the mule team to become a workhorse in the field of satellite imagery. It’s now the world’s largest civilian archive of pictures from space.

“It was really one of the first places to take advantage of a satellite that looked back at the earth and took imagery and then scientists here looked at that imagery and understood what changes were happening all around the world,” National Land Imaging Program Coordinator Tim Newman said.

Over the past 50 years, EROS has grown right along with the city of Sioux Falls, turning this area into an important hub of scientific discovery.

“It brought recognition. It brought scientists from around the world. It brought international visitors who were interested in this new center, still bringing international visitors, today,” Mayor Paul TenHaken of Sioux Falls said.

As part of a rededication ceremony, EROS revealed some items kept inside a living time-capsule, including a satellite photo of Sioux Falls taken just yesterday.

“And you’ll see, not a pothole in sight!” TenHaken said.

The center’s mission is expected to grow in the decades ahead as development of a new generation of satellite progresses, keeping EROS on the cutting edge of studying our planet.

A 50th anniversary is too big to celebrate just for one day. So EROS employees and their families will gather again on Saturday for more activities, including tours of the facility and talks by EROS scientists.