NASA and USGS Release Stunning First Images From New Landsat 9 Spacecraft

Mangroves are prominent along the northwest coast of Australia. The first image collected by Landsat 9, on October 31, 2021, shows mangroves clustered in protected inlets and bays on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Fluffy cumulus clouds and high-altitude cirrus clouds hover nearby. The aqua colors of the shallow near-shore waters give way to the deep, dark blues of the ocean. Credit: NASA

Landsat 9, a joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that launched on September 27, 2021, has collected its first light images of Earth.

The images, all acquired on October 31, are available online. They provide a preview of how the mission will help people manage vital natural resources and understand the impacts of climate change, adding to Landsat’s unparalleled data record that spans nearly 50 years of space-based Earth observation.

“Landsat 9’s first images capture critical observations about our changing planet and will advance this joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that provides critical data about Earth’s landscapes and coastlines seen from space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This program has the proven power to not only improve lives but also save lives. NASA will continue to work with USGS to strengthen and improve accessibility to Landsat data so decision makers in America – and around the world – better understand the devastation of the climate crisis, manage agricultural practices, preserve precious resources and respond more effectively to natural disasters.”


Animation of the Landsat 9 spacecraft in orbit around Earth, passing over the Western US and Baja California. The satellite will travel at 7.5 km/second, circling the globe every 99 minutes at an altitude of 705 km (438 miles). Landsat 9 will image a swath 185 km (115 miles) in width and complete about 14 orbits each day, thereby imaging every part of Earth every 16 days. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab

These first light images shows Detroit, Michigan, with neighboring Lake St. Clair, the intersection of cities and beaches along a changing Florida coastline and images from Navajo Country in Arizona that will add to the wealth of data helping us monitor crop health and manage irrigation water. The new images also provided data about the changing landscapes of the Himalayas in High Mountain Asia and the coastal islands and shorelines of Northern Australia.

Landsat 9 is similar in design to its predecessor, Landsat 8, which was launched in 2013 and remains in orbit, but features several improvements. The new satellite transmits data with higher radiometric resolution back down to Earth, allowing it to detect more subtle differences, especially over darker areas like water or dense forests. For example, Landsat 9 can differentiate more than 16,000 shades of a given wavelength color; Landsat 7, the satellite being replaced, detects only 256 shades. This increased sensitivity will allow Landsat users to see much more subtle changes than ever before.

“First light is a big milestone for Landsat users – it’s the first chance to really see the kind of quality that Landsat 9 provides. And they look fantastic,” said Jeff Masek NASA’s Landsat 9 project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. “When we have Landsat 9 operating in coordination with Landsat 8, it’s going to be this wealth of data, allowing us to monitor changes to our home planet every eight days.”

Landsat 9 carries two instruments that capture imagery: the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2), which detects visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared light in nine wavelengths, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2), which detects thermal radiation in two wavelengths to measure Earth’s surface temperatures and its changes.

These instruments will provide Landsat 9 users with essential information about crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat, urban expansion, and more.

“The data and images from Landsat 9 are expanding our capability to see how Earth has changed over decades”, said Karen St. Germain, Earth Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In a changing climate, continuous and free access to Landsat data, and the other data in NASA’s Earth observing fleet, helps data users, including city planners, farmers and scientists, plan for the future.”

NASA’s Landsat 9 team is conducting a 100-day check-out period that involves testing the satellite’s systems and subsystems and calibrating its instruments in preparation for handing the mission over to USGS in January. USGS will operate Landsat 9 along with Landsat 8, and together the two satellites will collect approximately 1,500 images of Earth’s surface every day, covering the globe every eight days.

“The incredible first pictures from the Landsat 9 satellite are a glimpse into the data that will help us make science-based decisions on key issues including water use, wildfire impacts, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat and tropical deforestation,” said USGS Acting Director Dr. David Applegate. “This historic moment is the culmination of our long partnership with NASA on Landsat 9’s development, launch and initial operations, which will better support environmental sustainability, climate change resiliency and economic growth – all while expanding an unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes.”

NASA, USGS Landsat 9 Image Gallery

Landsat 9: Capturing a Broad Range of Data. Credit: NASA/USGS

Landsat 9 carries two instruments designed to work together to capture a broad range of wavelengths: the Operational Land Imager 2, or OLI-2, which detects nine different wavelengths of visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared light; and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2, or TIRS-2, which detects two wavelengths of thermal radiation to measure slight changes in temperature. Data from both instruments are shown in the two pairs in this image.

The top left shows snow and glaciers in the Himalayan mountains, leading to the flat Tibetan Plateau to the north. The top right shows the same area in thermal data from the TIRS-2 instrument. Blue-white color indicates relatively cooler surface temperatures, while orange-red indicates warmer surface temperatures.

The bottom left shows the brown and green rectangles of farm fields in southern Ontario, sandwiched between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The white and grey rectangles in the bottom of the image are produce greenhouses, which show up as blue-ish (relatively cooler) spots in the TIRS-2 image on the right.

Landsat 9: Western Australia. Credit: NASA/USGS

The first image collected by Landsat 9, on October 31, 2021, shows remote coastal islands and inlets of the Kimberly region of Western Australia. In the top middle section of the image, the Mitchell River carves through sandstone, while to the left Bigge Island and the Coronation Islands stand out in the Indian Ocean. Australia is a major international partner of the Landsat 9 program, and operates one of the Landsat Ground Network stations in Alice Springs.

Landsat 9: Navajo Nation. Credit: NASA/USGS

In the Western U.S., in places like the Navajo Nation as seen in this Landsat 9 image, Landsat and other satellite data help people monitor drought conditions and manage irrigation water. With only 85 rain gauges to cover more than 27,000 square miles, satellite data and climate models are filling the gaps to help the Navajo Nation monitor drought severity.

Landsat 9: Himalayas. Credit: NASA/USGS

The city of Kathmandu, Nepal, seen at the bottom left of this Landsat 9 image, lies in a valley south of the Himalayan Mountains between Nepal and China. Glaciers, and the lakes formed by glacial meltwater, are visible in the top middle of this image. In High Mountain Asia, many communities rely on meltwater from glaciers – and Landsat can help track how those glaciers are changing in a warming climate. Previous studies with Landsat have documented shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers, as well as changing lake levels the adjacent Tibetan plateau. From October 31, 2021, the first day of data collection for Landsat 9.

Landsat 9: Florida Panhandle. Credit: NASA/USGS

The white sands of Pensacola Beach stand out in this Landsat 9 image of the Florida Panhandle of the United States, with Panama City visible under some popcorn-like clouds. Landsat and other remote sensing satellites help to track changes to U.S. coastlines, including urban development and potential impacts of rising sea levels. From October 31, 2021, the first day of data collection for Landsat 9.

Landsat 9: Detroit and Lake Erie. Credit: NASA/USGS

Sediments swirl in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in this Landsat 9 image of both Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, from October 31, 2021. The Great Lakes serve as sources of freshwater, recreational activity, transport, and habitat for the upper-midwestern United States, and water quality remains a high priority. In warmer months, Landsat 9 observes swirls of green algae which can become harmful algal blooms. Landsat 9 will be able to help scientists and resource managers identify those blooms early, identifying areas to test further.

Landsat 9 data will be available to the public, for free, from USGS’s website once the satellite begins normal operations.

NASA manages the Landsat 9 mission development. Teams from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, also built and tested the TIRS-2 instrument. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, managed the mission’s launch. The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center will operate the mission and manage the ground system, including maintaining the Landsat archive. Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, built and tested the OLI-2 instrument. United Launch Alliance is the rocket provider for Landsat 9’s launch. Northrop Grumman in Gilbert, Arizona, built the Landsat 9 spacecraft, integrated it with instruments, and tested it.

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  • Babu G. Ranganathan

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)

    OUR LIVING WORLD: NOT INVENTED BY NATURE

    JUST BECAUSE something exists in nature does not mean it was invented by nature. If all the chemicals (i.e. amino acids, nucleic acids, etc.) necessary to make a cell were left to themselves, “Mother Nature” would have no ability to organize them into a cell. It requires an already existing cell to bring about another cell. The cell exists and reproduces in nature but nature didn’t invent or design it! Nature didn’t originate the cell or any form of life. An intelligent power outside of nature had to be responsible.

    Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that amino acids (the building blocks of life) could form by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules.

    Natural laws may explain how an airplane or cell works, but it’s not rational to believe that undirected natural laws can bring about an airplane or a cell.

    ONCE YOU HAVE a complete and living cell then the genetic program (or code) and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could the cell have originated naturally when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature?

    Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules along with and DNA/RNA..

    The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 82nd power.

    The cell didn’t evolve. A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate, not wait millions of years to become complete and living.

    WHAT ABOUT EVOLUTION? Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How could species have survived if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented such evolution! Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits, is possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    WHAT ABOUT NEW SPECIES: Although new species have come into existence, they don’t carry any new genes. They’ve become new species only because they can’t be crossed back with the original parent stock for various biological reasons. A biological “kind” allows for new species but not new genes. Nature has no ability to invent new genes for new traits. Only limited variations and adaptations are possible in nature, and all strictly within a biological “kind” (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.).

    All species of plants and animals in the fossil record are found complete, fully formed, and fully functional. This is powerful evidence that all species came into existence as complete and fully formed from the beginning. This is only possible by creation.

    What about natural selection? Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. That’s why it’s called natural “selection.” The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only variations and mutations of already existing genes or traits are possible.

    Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza’s extensive research points to a better explanation than natural selection for variation and adaptation in nature. Dr. Guliuzza explains that species have pre-engineered mechanisms that enable organisms to continuously track and respond to environmental changes with system elements that correspond to human-designed tracking systems. This model is called CET (continuous environmental tracking). His research strongly indicates that living things have been pre-engineered to produce the right adaptations and changes required to live in changing environments. It’s much like a car that’s been pre-engineered so that the head lights turn on automatically when day changes to night.

    Modern evolutionists believe and hope that over, supposedly, millions of years, random mutations in the genetic code caused by environmental radiation will generate entirely new genes for natural selection to use. This is total blind and irrational faith on the part of evolutionists. It’s much like believing that randomly changing the sequence of letters in a romance novel, over millions of years, will turn it into a book on astronomy! That’s the kind of blind faith macro-evolutionists have.

    Mutations are accidents in the genetic, are mostly harmful, and have no capability of producing greater complexity in the code. Even if a good accident occurred, for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result, over time, being harmful, even lethal, to the species. Even if a single mutation is not immediately harmful, the accumulation of mutations over time will be harmful. At best, mutations only produce further variations within a natural species. Most biological variations are not due to mutations but from new combinations of already existing genes.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Only genetic similarities within a natural species proves relationship because it’s only within a natural species that members can interbreed and reproduce.

    The actual similarity between ape and human DNA is between 70-87% not 99.8% as commonly believed. The original research stating 99.8% similarity was based on ignoring contradicting evidence. Only a certain segment of DNA between apes and humans was compared, not the entire DNA genome.

    All the fossils that have been used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not non-human and human (i.e. Neanderthal Man was discovered later to be fully human).

    There has never been unanimous agreement among evolutionary scientists on ANY fossil evidence that has been used to support human evolution over the Many years, Including LUCY.

    Also, so-called “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. Although these “non-coding” segments of DNA don’t code for proteins, they have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed, so they’re not “junk”).

    Read the author’s Internet article, NO MEAT-EATING ANIMALS EXISTED IN THE BEGINNING

    Visit my latest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION (This site answers many arguments, both old and new, that have been used by evolutionists to support their theory)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

    • Dan

      nice hypothesis. prove it. your comment is barely coherent preaching and rambling with no evidence whatsoever. It is clear you have no legitimate scientific background.

  • jack

    Totally non scientific

  • Bert

    @Dan, and @Jack: I’m guessing you have your minds made up already. Babu gives statistics and references to back up his statements. What is your take on where “we” (cells, organisms, matter in general) come from? All that aside, this satellite and it’s sister are going to give us some really cool glimpses, nay, detailed images of this little blue, brown, and green ball we all live on.

  • Rabu R. Banganathan

    Babu G. Ranganathan is a stinky dumb Weiner head

  • Todd

    Sorry Mr. Babu, your beliefs are highly illogical, they don’t make sense.

  • Percy Raoull

    It would seem that Babu G. Ranganathan (B.A. Bible/Biology) is a bit “eccentric” in his reasoning.

    It’s more interesting that the comment is placed as a comment on the above article, “NASA and USGS Release Stunning First Images From New Landsat 9 Spacecraft,” to which his “thoughts,” such as they are, aren’t even remotely relevant.

    He may not like random selection, but he seemingly is a true believer in randomly placed nonsense.