Vandenberg Space Force Base sent Landsat 9, a global imaging satellite, into orbit Monday during its 2,000th launch.
An Atlas V rocket carried the satellite into space. The 11:12 a.m. launch Monday was Vandenberg’s 300th launch of an Atlas rocket.
Landsat 9, now orbiting Earth, captures 700 photos each day. Landsat images, which are available for public download, help scientists and policy makers see climate change’s effect.
Landsat 9’s predecessors have long tracked the growth of cities and the shrinking of glaciers. Now, pollutants will be more visible than ever.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland attended the launch.
“We’re in the thick of the climate crisis right now,” she said. “Images like the ones that Landsat 9 will bring back to us will help us tremendously to guide us in how we’re approaching climate change, working to make sure we can make the best decisions possible.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses Landsat imagery to track what crops are grown annually.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administrator Bill Nelson said the data helps farmers, scientists and decision makers.
President Joe Biden requested $24.8 billion for NASA in the 2022 budget, a 6% increase from 2021.
“It is a very strong budget request,” Mr. Nelson said. “The value is immense. When you’re talking about data like this, it’s hard data that arms decision makers with the tools they need to make decisions about our future.”
He said NASA is “doubling its efforts” to lead climate-science research.
NASA is planning to build five observatories to look at Earth’s land, oceans, ice and atmosphere. The data will be used to build a 3D composite, Mr. Nelson said.
The launch was successful with minimal hiccups. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 16 but endured delays because of a liquid oxygen shortage.
The rocket honored the memory of Tom Heter II, who worked in the space launch industry for 45 years. His son, Tom Heter III, was Monday’s launch director.
A Landsat mural was unveiled Sunday in Lompoc at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and I Street, commemorating the soon-to-be 50 years of Earth imagery.
LANDSAT, A LOCAL LEGACY
Landsat 1 launched in 1972, a product of the Santa Barbara Research Center. Patricia Campbell spoke to the News-Press about her husband John’s work on the inaugural Landsat.
He was part of a small but hard-working team of “a dozen or fewer people” who developed and tested the satellite, Mrs. Campbell estimates.
Three years prior to Landsat 1’s launch, SBRC developed the Visible/Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The groundbreaking VISSR satellite tracks weather and is still in use today.
“Compared to the VISSR, the Landsat was so much more complex, more daring,” Mrs. Campbell said. “It was on the edge of possibility.”
The team worked overtime to finish the project.
Mr. Campbell brought the satellite’s mirrors from across the county. He flew first class with two tickets: one seat for him, the other for the mirror.
Mrs. Campbell described the SBRC’s team as modest, not prone to bragging.
“I think they did sense the importance of it, but I don’t think the importance of an earth satellite was known by the general public back then,” she said.
Mr. Campbell worked on more Landsat satellites, and the family enjoyed watching them shoot into the sky from Vandenberg.