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Landsat 8 Captures Dramatic Details Of Earth

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It was a successful launch into space but the mission is all about Earth.

Alex DeMetrick reports Landsat 8 is the latest component of a science mission stretching back more than 40 years.

The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was picture perfect right into orbit. When deployed, Landsat 8 will take over the work of seven earlier satellites. The first was launched 41 years ago.

"It's given us the best view of how our planet is changing due to natural and human effects," said Goddard Chief Scientist Dr. James Garvin.

Those changes include those created by massive forest fires in the western U.S. or the change in rivers when they swell into floods--even the change in the U.S. as cities grow and expand outward. The time lapse covers years and the mission is controlled in Maryland at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

"The continuity of that data is critical. Have to keep going because we are measuring the rate of change of our planet," Garvin said.

And the view is about to get a lot sharper with Landsat 8.

Like its earlier versions, the spacecraft orbits the Earth from pole to pole. It maps the entire planet in 17 days but new sensors will pick up greater detail with both thermal and visual imaging, creating the breathtaking beauty of the big picture.

Data from the Landsat program is free and available to anyone. It's been used to study everything from climate change to watering crops on family farms.

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