Washington's Mount St. Helens, snapped by the Landsat mission in 1999.
For its 40th birthday, one of the United States' oldest ongoing satellite missions is celebrating by handing out some unique presents.
The Landsat Project, a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has been monitoring changes in the Earth's surface since July 1972, when its first Earth-observing satellite was blasted into space.
At the time, weather satellites had proved an invaluable addition to the arsenal of tools researchers used to track changes swirling above the planet, but it wasn't clear the orbiting observers could send back equally valuable data on what was happening to the planet itself.
In the four decades since, the Landsat Program has created the longest continuous space-based record of changes in the Earth's surface.
Over the years, the satellites have monitored changes from city sprawl to the reach of forests to the creeping effects of natural disasters, providing invaluable information to a wide range of groups, from farmers to climate researchers to emergency managers.
Now, to celebrate the milestone, several United States citizens will receive a customized, 40-year-long visual record of a place of their choosing — if they are one of the lucky winners of the NASA-USGS My American Landscape contest.
To enter, the federal agencies are asking people to submit the answers to a few simple questions regarding changes to landscapes in their area. Entrants who give the most compelling answers will receive a unique space-based chronicle of their chosen area.
Here are the questions:
1. What are the types of landscape changes that interest you in your part of your state? Select one or more from the list below:
- Farms and fields
- Cities and suburbs
- Lakes, rivers, and coasts
- Natural disasters
- Wildlife habitat
2. Describe in at least 100 words the local changes you are interested in where you live, and what you hope to learn about them from a Landsat "space chronicle."
Entrants should send answers, along with a name, an email address, and the county and state in which they live to HQ-LandsatContest@mail.nasa.gov.
The deadline is June 6. Six winners will be announced on July 23 at a Landsat Program anniversary news conference in Washington, which will be carried live on NASA Television.