Source: The Earth Observer, Nov.-Dec. 2011

Tom Loveland, the USGS Landsat Science Team Co-chair opened the August Landsat Science Team meeting with a review of the contributions and impacts the Landsat Science Team (LST) has had on Landsat, USGS, and NASA.

While the LST made many noteworthy contributions that advanced the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and Landsat program, Loveland focused on five major impacts:

  • Web-Enabled Landsat Data: The LST strongly supported the decision to distribute Landsat data for free. This was the single most profound Landsat-related event that occurred during the LST’s tenure. The LST advocated this in the first year, and supported all aspects of USGS efforts to open the Landsat archive.
  • LDCM Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS): The LST’s advocacy contributed to NASA’s decision to restore LDCM thermal imaging capabilities. The LST consistently stressed that “…failing to continue the 28-year history of Landsat-scale thermal surveillance will have negative consequences in terms of safeguarding the future economy, environment, health, and natural resources of the U.S. and our ability to address water supply crises abroad.”
  • Landsat Global Archive Consolidation: The LST initially suggested making repatriation and consolidation of international Landsat holdings a priority, and called on the USGS to “…bring copies of foreign holdings into the U.S. archive. The sooner work begins on this front the better, as delays will result in more images being lost.” The LST’s continued encouragement and input on priorities resulted in a major expansion of Landsat archive holdings.
  • Supporting the National Land Imaging (NLI) Program and Future Landsats:The LST collectively and individually advocated for NLI and an operational Landsat program throughout their term, and contributed to the development of mission concepts for Landsats 9 and 10.
  • Research and Development: The LST’s science, applications, and engineering accomplishments had significant impacts on Landsat, remote sensing, and environmental science. Through more than 400 peer-reviewed scientific publications, the team reported on a wide array of research topics, including approaches for using large volumes of Landsat data for long-term and broad-area studies. The LST established the foundation for generating higher-level Landsat science products. In addition, the LST was frequently called on to evaluate specific issues facing the Landsat program. For example, they addressed issues such as Landsat pixel dimension standards; Landsat program priorities for release of Web-enabled Landsat data; recovery of old Multispectral Scanner System (MSS) data; LDCM requirements, including provision of Level 0R products; and launch delay impacts. In almost every case, the relevance and clarity of the LST’s input resulted in USGS and NASA accepting and following the LST’s recommendations.

Loveland concluded that the USGS-NASA LST has had a tremendous impact on the Landsat program over the past five years, playing an instrumental role as a catalyst for major advances in data quality and quantity, and in the science and applications of Landsat data. The members of the LST provided relevant and practical input that demonstrated their clear commitment to the needs of the diverse Landsat science and applications user communities, and a clear understanding of the operational challenges facing USGS, NASA, and Landsat.

Further information:
“Landsat Science Team Meeting Summary” The Earth Observer [pdf]