By a unanimous vote of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Board of Directors, the Society has issued a third resolution calling for immediate support and funding for the continuation of the Nation’s moderate resolution imaging program. Due to a technical failure in the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument on-board the Landsat 7 spacecraft in May 2003, and the recent decline of the Landsat 5 spacecraft, the continued collection of useful moderate-resolution, multispectral remote sensing data is now jeopardized.
Over 40 years of uninterrupted Landsat imagery has played a critical role in monitoring ongoing stresses on the Earth from population, industry, climate change, land use and other factors. The continued collection of moderate resolution imagery is needed to provide an effective means to intensively and systematically measure the Earth’s vital conditions as food and water and energy resources become ever more scarce.
In the resolution, ASPRS cites the policy change made in 2008 by the Department of the Interior (DOI)/U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to distribute all current and historic Landsat imagery free of charge to users anywhere in the world. This has resulted in an explosive growth in imagery utilization, especially the global monitoring land surface changes. In addition, the resolution points out the comprehensive strategy formulated by the White House in 2007 to ensure long-term stability for moderate resolution satellite land-imaging.
In 2011, the current Administration embraced and reinforced that strategy by seeking funding within the DOI/USGS budget to ensure its implementation. Congressional appropriators have not agreed with the Administration’s proposal to create and fund a separate DOI/USGS “Land Imaging” account and instead have provided $2 million for program development only with time in the year ahead for all interested parties to re-examine how to proceed with future missions.
The current ASPRS resolution outlines five points that ASPRS believes the U.S. Government must seriously consider:
1. The United States must commit to continue the collection of moderate-resolution land imagery and the free distribution of current and historic imagery.
2. The United States must establish and maintain a core operational capability to collect moderate-resolution land imagery through the procurement and launch of a series of U.S.-owned satellites, thus providing job opportunities for highly skilled, technically trained Americans and sustaining U.S. technical leadership and expertise in remote sensing.
3. The United States must build, launch and operate lower cost smaller satellites, using those proven technologies for our future operational land-imaging systems, and avoiding costly, one-of-a-kind imaging satellites.
4. The United States must pursue a strategy that includes collaboration with international partners, and with domestic and foreign commercial entities, to augment the core capability for meeting U.S. operational requirements and create opportunities for cost sharing and data interoperability.
5. The United States must ensure adequate funding is allocated to DOI, which will continue to partner with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to meet U.S. civil land imaging needs.
“For the past nine years, ASPRS has pressed the U.S. Government on the importance of planning for data continuity and a commitment to the establishment and maintenance of a core operational capability to collect moderate-resolution land imagery through the procurement and launch of a series of U.S.-owned satellites,” said ASPRS President Gary Florence. “ASPRS continues to believe the most efficient, sustainable and cost-effective way to ensure the continuous flow of Landsat or Landsat-like data is for the U.S. Government to invest in building lower cost smaller satellites and to pursue international cost-sharing partners, starting with the European Space Agency, who have the same or very similar program objectives,” he emphasized.