Interior Continues Leadership Role in Land Remote Sensing Under National Space Policy Announced by the President

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Space Policy announced by the White House today recognizes and endorses the Department of the Interior's expertise and accomplishments in land imaging and remote sensing to advance global climate change research and provide data for science and natural resource management.

“The National Space Policy confirms Interior's important role in land imaging and remote sensing in coordination with NASA,” said Interior Assistant Secretary Anne Castle. “The unbiased, comprehensive data this program provides is vital to our efforts to better understand and manage land, water, and our natural resources. We look forward to working with government agencies at all levels — Federal, State, local and tribal —to promote a broad, public understanding of land and water conditions in our Nation and around the globe.”

“Land remote sensing is a crucial tool in our efforts to develop broad, effective, holistic approaches to both mitigate and adapt to the environmental challenges of our day,” said Castle, who oversees Interior's Water and Science agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey. “In addition, remote sensing has critical event-specific uses, for example, in closely monitoring the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and establishing baseline and post-spill conditions.”

Since 1966, Interior has managed science data operations and applications development for Landsat and other national land imaging systems from its U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, SD. The Department currently operates Landsats 5 and 7 and is developing the Landsat Data Continuity Mission with NASA for launch in FY 2013. The Administration is currently discussing plans for Landsat 9.

With its historical consistency, continuous global coverage, and very high quality of data, Landsat has become a vital tool worldwide for understanding scientific issues related to land use and natural resources. International applications of Landsat data have become widespread for use in agriculture, forestry, mapping, land and water assessments and climate change study.

The Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Geological Survey, facilitates access by U.S. civil agencies to national security satellite data when this data can be used for environmental assessments and disaster management. The Landsat series of satellites also is considered a cornerstone of U.S. space cooperation with foreign nations. More than 20 nations on six continents collaborate in operating local receiving stations for Landsat data on behalf of their continental regions.

On behalf of the Department, USGS publishes the entire 38-year Landsat archive over the Internet at no cost to users. In the past two years, more than 2 million current and archived images taken by Landsat have been downloaded by users throughout the world.

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