LANDSAT AND BEYOND
SUSTAINING AND ENHANCING THE NATION’S
LAND IMAGING PROGRAM
Committee on Implementation of a Sustained Land Imaging Program
Space Studies Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
Support for this project was provided by Cooperative Agreement Number G11AP20217 from the United States Geological Survey. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USGS.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-29001-2
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-29001-5
Cover: Design by Tim Warchocki; see for image credits.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
OTHER RECENT REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD
Lessons Learned in Decadal Planning in Space Science: Summary of a Workshop (Space Studies Board [SSB], 2013)
Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society (SSB, 2013)
Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid (Board on Physics and Astronomy [BPA] with the SSB, 2012)
Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Spacecraft Missions to Icy Solar System Bodies (SSB, 2012)
Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA’s Implementation of the Decadal Survey (SSB, 2012)
The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2012)
NASA’s Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus (Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, 2012)
Report of the Panel on Implementing Recommendations from the New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey (BPA and SSB, 2012)
Technical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation (SSB, 2012)
Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions (SSB, 2011)
Panel Reports—New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (BPA and SSB, 2011)
Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era (SSB, 2011)
Sharing the Adventure with the Public—The Value and Excitement of “Grand Questions” of Space Science and Exploration: Summary of a Workshop (SSB, 2011)
Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 (SSB, 2011)
Capabilities for the Future: An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research (Laboratory Assessments Board with SSB and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2010)
Controlling Cost Growth of NASA Earth and Space Science Missions (SSB, 2010)
Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report (SSB with ASEB, 2010)
An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions (SSB, 2010)
Forging the Future of Space Science: The Next 50 Years (SSB, 2010)
Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era of Space Exploration: An Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2010)
New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (BPA and SSB, 2010)
Revitalizing NASA’s Suborbital Program: Advancing Science, Driving Innovation, and Developing a Workforce (SSB, 2010)
America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (SSB, 2009)
Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Heliophysics Program (SSB, 2009)
Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Limited copies of SSB reports are available free of charge from
Space Studies Board
National Research Council
The Keck Center of the National Academies
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
COMMITTEE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF A SUSTAINED LAND IMAGING PROGRAM
JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara, Chair
CARLOS E. Del CASTILLO, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
JACK D. FELLOWS, EnviroGen International Foundation and G2Groups, Inc.
KATHLEEN O. GREEN, Kass Green & Associates
JOHN R. JENSEN, University of South Carolina
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, University of Washington
BERRIEN MOORE III, University of Oklahoma
DIANE E. PATAKI, University of Utah
DAVID S. SCHIMEL, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
WALTER S. SCOTT, DigitalGlobe, Inc.
WILLIAM F. TOWNSEND, Independent Aerospace Consultant, Annapolis, Maryland
HOWARD A. ZEBKER, Stanford University
MARY LOU ZOBACK, Stanford University
ABIGAIL A. SHEFFER, Study Director
ARTHUR A. CHARO, Senior Program Officer
JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, JR., Senior Program Officer
LINDA M. WALKER, Senior Program Assistant
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director, Space Studies Board
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
CHARLES F. KENNEL, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Chair
JOHN KLINEBERG, Space Systems/Loral (retired), Vice Chair
MARK R. ABBOTT, Oregon State University
JAMES ANDERSON, Harvard University
JAMES BAGIAN, University of Michigan
YVONNE C. BRILL,1 Aerospace Consultant
ELIZABETH R. CANTWELL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
ANDREW B. CHRISTENSEN, Dixie State College of Utah
ALAN DRESSLER, The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution
THOMAS R. GAVIN, California Institute of Technology
HEIDI B. HAMMEL, AURA
FIONA A. HARRISON, California Institute of Technology
JOSEPH S. HEZIR, EOP Group, Inc.
ANTHONY C. JANETOS, University of Maryland
JOAN JOHNSON-FREESE, U.S. Naval War College
ROBERT P. LIN,2 University of California, Berkeley
MOLLY K. MACAULEY, Resources for the Future, Inc.
JOHN F. MUSTARD, Brown University
ROBERT T. PAPPALARDO, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
MARCIA J. RIEKE, University of Arizona
DAVID N. SPERGEL, Princeton University
MEENAKSHI WADHWA, Arizona State University
CLIFFORD M. WILL, Washington University
THOMAS H. ZURBUCHEN, University of Michigan
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
CHRISTINA O. SHIPMAN, Financial Officer
SANDRA WILSON, Financial Assistant
1 Dr. Brill passed away on March 27, 2013.
2 Dr. Lin passed away on November 17, 2012.
The nation’s economy, security, and environmental vitality rely on routine observations of Earth’s surface to understand changes to the landscape at local, regional, and global scales. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conceived and built the first Landsat satellites as a research activity. Over the years, Landsat missions have assumed an operational character, with a diverse set of users reliant on the continuing availability of Landsat imagery and derived data products. However, responsibility for funding, management, development, and operations of the Landsat series has changed hands numerous times, with responsibilities shifting among government agencies and private-sector entities. While the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has established and maintained management of land remote sensing data acquisition, archiving, and dissemination, no clearly defined and sustainable land imaging program has yet been created.
What may be viewed as the groundwork for such a program is seen in a 2007 report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy,1 which provided a vision for space-based land imaging. Also the 2010 National Space Policy2 directed the DOI, through the USGS, to take more responsibility for conducting research on natural and human-induced changes to Earth, for managing a global land surface data national archive, and for providing environmental and disaster-related data to other civil government agencies. It is against this backdrop that the USGS requested, in 2011, that the National Research Council (NRC) assess the needs and opportunities to develop a national space-based operational land imaging capability. The USGS request also has ties to the 2007 NRC decadal survey, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond .3 Requested by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the USGS, that report recommends a systems approach to space-based and ancillary observations featuring 17 new research missions.
The statement of task4 for the Committee on Implementation of a Sustained Land Imaging Program includes the request for recommendations to facilitate the transition of single-mission NASA research-based land imaging
1A Plan for a U.S. National Land Imaging Program, Office of Science and Technology Policy—National Science and Technology Council, Future of Land Imaging Interagency Working Group, August 2007. Available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/fli_iwg_report_print_ready_low_res.pdf.
2National Space Policy of the United States of America, June 28, 2010, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf.
3 National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.
4 The complete text of the statement of task is included in Appendix A.
technology or missions to sustained USGS land imaging program technology or missions. However, it is also important to recognize the limits to this charge given continuing instability in national policy for space-based land remote sensing. Even as the committee was writing its report, agency responsibilities for the future of land imaging appeared to be shifting once again in the fiscal year 2014 budget request.5 Consequently, in the present report, the committee does not make recommendations regarding particular agency responsibilities for land imaging, which in any event are properly in the purview of the executive and congressional branches of the government. The committee does comment on several overarching issues—for example, coordination among the relevant federal agencies, alignment of agency responsibilities with budgets, steps that might lead to lower-cost implementations of successors in the Landsat series, and the desired elements of a future national land imaging system.
This report is organized around Tasks 1-4 of the statement of task as follows:
• Chapter 1 addresses Task 1 of the statement of task by providing an introduction to the report, including an overview of the benefits of Landsat data to the nation and a review of the program’s chaotic history.
• Chapters 2 and 3 focus on Task 2 by discussing elements of what the committee finds to be the critical core elements of any future land imaging system, based on continuity with earlier systems and technical characteristics their users employ.
• Chapter 3 expands the discussion in Chapter 2 to include the elements of a fully capable land imaging system, beyond Landsat itself. The chapter describes the committee’s vision for a sustained and enhanced land imaging program and gives an overview of potential new observing capabilities. The role of commercial and international partners is also discussed.
• Chapter 4 focuses on Task 3—data systems. As discussed in the chapter, to achieve a sustained land imaging capability requires not only plans for data acquisition but also attention to the development of data products (including climate data records and essential climate variables) and their management, as well as considerations of data availability.
• Chapter 5 presents the committee’s view on Task 4, discussing future opportunities and the path forward with particular attention to alternative, lower-cost acquisition strategies for future land imaging systems, along with ideas for sensor designs to meet users’ requirements.
5 “In 2014, USGS will work with NASA to analyze user requirements and develop a successor mission to Landsat 8, formerly known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. Funding to begin work on the successor mission is provided in the 2014 budget for NASA, which will be responsible for development of Landsat-class land imaging satellites going forward. The USGS will continue its operational role in managing the collection, archiving, and dissemination of Landsat data to users.” From “Bureau Highlights,” U.S. Geological Survey, p. BH-55 in Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal 2014 Budget of the U.S. Government, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C., available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Mark Brender, GeoEye Foundation
W. Peter Cherry, Independent Consultant, Ann Arbor, Michigan,
Nancy Colleton, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies,
Giles Foody, University of Nottingham, U.K.,
Joanne Gabrynowicz, University of Mississippi,
George Hilley, Stanford University,
Anthony C. Janetos, Boston University,
Christopher O. Justice, University of Maryland,
Thomas M. Lillesand, University of Wisconsin, Madison (professor emeritus),
Emilio F. Moran, Michigan State University,
John R. Schott, Rochester Institute of Technology, and
A. Thomas Young, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired).
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Eastman Kodak Company. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.