The Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced plans to make the Department of the Interior the permanent manager of the Landsat series of Earth observation satellites.
"Bringing the Landsat satellite mission under USGS is not only the best scientific and fiscal plan for the country," said Secretary Salazar, "but also will bring stability to the high tech employers that hire and build these systems right here in the United States. Landsat drives innovation and job-creation at many levels of our economy, from the satellite manufacturers that build the technologies to the water managers, farmers, and resource managers across the West and around the world who rely on its data for smart and efficient operations."
Secretary Salazar announced the plans after touring Ball Aerospace, the maker of a key instrument on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) which is the next, and final, satellite in the Landsat series, if future plans are not adopted.Landsat satellites capture data about the Earth's surface that no other private or public source can provide. This unique data has become vital to agricultural, water management, disaster response, scientific, and national security uses, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in estimated value to the U.S. economy per year.
The USGS already owns and operates the two Landsat satellites currently in orbit and is working in partnership with NASA to develop the LDCM satellite mission. NASA's expertise will be retained under the announced plans, with NASA continuing to build and launch future Landsat satellites for USGS. The plans will require Congressional approval to be finalized.