Academic journal article Cartography and Geographic Information Science

The U.S. Geological Survey Land Remote Sensing Program

Academic journal article Cartography and Geographic Information Science

The U.S. Geological Survey Land Remote Sensing Program

Article excerpt


For many decades, the USGS has been a leader in providing remotely sensed data to national and international scientific and management communities. Adopting modern technology to achieve its historical topographic mapping mission, the USGS has archived and distributed aerial photographs of the United States for more than half a century. Since 1972, the USGS has been acquiring, archiving, and processing Landsat and other satellite and airborne remotely sensed data products and distributing them to users worldwide. Today, the USGS operates and manages the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellite missions. It cooperates with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to define and implement future satellite missions that will expand the collection of moderate-resolution remotely sensed data.

In addition to being a provider of remotely sensed data, the USGS is a user of these data and related technology for a variety of natural resource studies. These uses include energy and minerals evaluations, coastal environmental surveys, assessments of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides), biological surveys and investigations, water resources status and trends analyses and studies, and geographic and cartographic applications, such as in wildfire detection and tracking.

In 2002 the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) added focus to these activities when the Land Remote Sensing (LRS) Program was established to enhance the acquisition, preservation, and use of remotely sensed data for USGS science programs, as well as those of cooperators and customers. The LRS Program concentrates on providing fundamental remote sensing data and tools to study the Earth's land surface, including coastal and near-shore environments. The program obtains repetitive satellite images of the Earth's surface. As such, it provides a monitoring component to The National Map (see Kelmelis 2003 in this issue).

Goals and Objectives of the Land Remote Sensing Program

The Land Remote Sensing Program has two fundamental goals: 1) provide the Federal Government and the public with a primary source of remotely sensed data and applications, and 2) be a leader in defining the future of land remote sensing, nationally and internationally. To accomplish these goals, the LRS Program is working to attain the following three objectives:

* Acquire regional and global remotely sensed datasets from multiple sources and participate in defining and developing future satellite missions;

* Ensure the preservation of, and access to, the Nation's remotely sensed land data assets through the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive (NSLRSDA); and

* Expand the understanding and applications of remotely sensed data within the USGS, the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the scientific and user community at large.

Program Components

The program has three major components: Satellite Mission Operations and Data Acquisition, Long-Term Data Preservation and Access, and Remote Sensing Research and Data Utilization. Each component performs specific tasks to accomplish the program's fundamental mission and primary objectives. Further information about the LRS Program is available at the following web sites:; http://;; http: // Satellite Mission Operations and Data Acquisition The Satellite Mission Operations and Data Acquisition component of the LRS Program operates and manages the Landsat satellites, coordinates mission requirements with international cooperators, establishes and maintains relationships with commercial remote sensing entities, operates ground receiving stations, and implements new technologies that support ground data reception and processing in preparation for archiving.

The Landsat Program was established in 1969 through a joint initiative of the USGS and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). …

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