In 1975, NASA Administrator Dr. James Fletcher predicted that if one space age development would save the world, it would be Landsat and its successor satellites. Since the early 1970s, Landsat has continuously and consistently archived images of Earth; this unparalleled data archive gives scientist the ability to assess changes in Earth’s landscape. For 37 years, the Landsat program has collected spectral information from Earth’s surface, creating a historical archive unmatched in quality, detail, coverage, and length.
Landsat sensors have a moderate spatial-resolution. You cannot see individual houses on a Landsat image, but you can see large man-made objects such as highways. This is an important spatial resolution because it is coarse enough for global coverage, yet detailed enough to characterize human-scale processes such as urban growth.
Four years after the launch of the first Landsat satellite, a U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper entitled, “ERTS-1 A New Window on Our Planet” was published. The publication documented how visual examination of images from a space-based vantage point could benefit disciplines such as geology, hydrology, forestry, geography, cartography, agriculture, land use planning and rangeland management.
Thirty years after the publication of that professional paper, spectral data recorded by the Landsat satellites have served as the long-dominant source of imagery in the field of remote sensing. Here, NASA offers three galleries of Landsat imagery for you to visually examine: events, Cities, features. The city collection includes twenty images around five continents.