Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Landsat 8 Launches Successfully!

The title of this post could actually be "Live video of Landsat launch blows my mind". Landsat was launched atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket with live video coverage from aboard the rocket throughout the various stages of the launch streaming to the web for anyone to watch. The best part of the coverage was the end, when a camera on the rocket booster showed the separation of Landsat 8 from the booster, with a backdrop of the rising sun above a crescent Earth. See for yourself, and just try to hold your jaw closed:

Those flashes visible in the lower right hand corner as the satellite drifts away are not UFOs, as some might think, but are likely tumbling space junk catching the light of the rising Sun.

NASA reports that the satellite began communicating with Earth and charging its batteries shortly after separation from the booster rocket, and is doing well. However, the mission has been having issues with its remote ground stations in Fairbanks, AK and Sioux Falls, SD, which pose little threat to the spacecraft and will hopefully be sorted out soon.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission will be renamed to Landsat 8 and handed off to the US Geological Survey after the satellite has been commissioned. The Landsat program has been imaging the entire globe every 8 days since 1972 at a 30 meter resolution, providing beautiful and informative pictures and enabling scientists to track the evolution of the Earth due to both natural and unnatural causes. Here are a couple of my favorite Landsat pictures:
The shrinking of the Aral Sea due to the diversion of its waters for irrigation in central Asia.
A complete, cloud-free image of Antartica, pieced together from hundreds of images taken over time.

No comments:

Post a Comment