Virginia T. Norwood, Engineer Responsible for First Landsat Multispectral Scanner, Receives 2021 ASPRS Lifetime Achievement Award
April 15, 2021 • At any one time, only 25 living humans can count themselves as recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (known as ASPRS).
Since 1934, the scientific association has promoted the responsible use of geospatial technologies. The exceptionally selective Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor the professional society bestows. This year, on March 30, it was awarded to Virginia T. Norwood—the "Mother of Landsat."
Norwood, who turned 94 in January, had a long, distinguished career in the field of remote sensing. She developed a (patented) radar reflector, that led to the discovery of previously untraceable high-altitude winds; created a transmitter that beamed Surveyor images back from the moon; and, most significantly for the Earth-observation world, she pioneered the first space-based multispectral scanner. The sensor that made the Landsat program a success, and that went on, in many ways, to define modern-day remote sensing.
The ASPRS Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes her far reaching impact on the field of remote sensing.
Sam Goward, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, who is a former Landsat Science Team leader and author of the book, Landsat's Enduring Legacy, said of Norwood's award: “Outstanding nomination. Without Virginia we would not have the MSS and TM, and probably not Landsat. She is a major engineer of our generation and provides a pathway forward for current and future generations.”