How Landsat Chronicled 50 Years on a Changing, Fiery Planet

Around 2030, the Landsat program will launch its next satellite, called Landsat Next. It will bravely break from the numerical naming convention. It will also be an upgrade.

“Even when Landsat 9 was still being built, we were talking to scientists in the community,” says Bruce Cook, a Goddard scientist for the program’s forthcoming iteration, asking what they wanted that Landsat 9 wouldn’t give them. The answers were straightforward. They wanted pictures of each spot more often, higher-resolution data, and finer bands: Instruments will split light into more-detailed categories according to their wavelength—kind of like the difference between an eight-crayon set and one with 16. These can reveal things like

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