Miami, Sep 27 (EFE).- The improved Landsat 9 satellite, launched on Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is intended to give NASA and the US government better photos of the Earth’s surface from orbit, and thus information, on which political and scientific decisions can be made to safeguard natural resources and thus help human survival on the planet.
The plan is for the new satellite – the latest in the 50-year-old Landsat series – to provide more than 700 photographs from orbit each day, and it will accompany the still-operating Landsat 8 some 438 miles above the Earth’s surface, each of them completely photographing the planet’s surface every eight days.
“This is a rich form of data,” said US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland minutes before launch, which came at 2:12 pm, as scheduled.
“We’re in the thick of the climate crisis right now, we see that every day – drought, wildfires, hurricanes, Hurricane Ida that devastated parts of the South and went all the way up to New England,” Haaland said during a NASA TV interview.
“Images like the ones that Landsat 9 will bring back to us will help … tremendously to guide us in how we are approaching climate change, working to make sure that we can make the best decisions possible, so that folks have water into the future, that we can grow our food into the future,” she added regarding the satellite, which weighs 5,981 pounds.
She said that the information will help officials and scientists make decisions affecting the daily lives of people amid the climate crisis and the impact of worse hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman, the satellite was launched on Monday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The images that the new satellite takes will be added to an archive of more than nine million images from Landsat, which for decades have borne witness to climate change on Earth as part of a program run by NASA and the US Geological Survey.
The assistant science administrator of the program for NASA, Thomas Zurbruchen, said that research is like a painting, but Landsat is like the canvas.
After the launch, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that the Landsat project is crucial in the fight against climate change.
The images from Landsat, he said, will help farmers and scientists understand and better manage the Earth’s resources and everything necessary to sustain human life, including food, water and forests.
He emphasized that the program, which was begun in 1972, establishes a long-term record of the planet and allows officials to trace the changes and the impact of climate change.
Nelson said that the idea is to develop the capability to be able to measure what’s happening to the planet in real time.
That will help us understand not only that climate change is occurring but also how fast it is progressing and whether or not it’s accelerating, along with what that means for humans, Karen St. Germain, with NASA’s Earth Science division, said.
Good weather at the launch site on Monday allowed the launch to go forward, despite the presence of some clouds, fog and even smoke from forest fires, NASA said during broadcast of the event.
The agency said that the upper stage of the rocket achieved an orbit almost exactly over the North and South Poles a little more than 16 minutes into the flight, just as planned.
The Landsat program, in existence for almost 50 years with the information furnished by it being freely available to the public, has provided “continuous and uninterrupted” images of Earth, Laura Lorenzi, a NASA scientist, told EFE.
The program has allowed officials and scientists to understand what changes the planet had undergone, whether from natural or man-made causes, she added.
Information about croplands, deforestation, forest fires, potable water availability, and even the “magic” of knowing how much water is being used by crops are just some of the benefits provided by this satellite series, she said.
Lorenzi also emphasized that the new satellite will contribute to our understanding of coastal zones and the surfaces of oceans, lakes and reservoirs thanks to an additional feature allowing the satellite to view the Earth in the blue spectrum.