Our Home Planet, From Space

Earth’s Forests, Farms, Cities and Freshwater regions

For the past 50 years, Vandenberg Space Force Base (formerly Vandenberg Space Force Base) has served as the proud, pioneering home of the truly game-changing Landsat Program. During this half-century of change, the Landsat series of satellites have taught us so much about the planet we all call home — from a perspective far, far above what we are normally able to experience and enjoy.

A joint effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Landsat Program has been dubbed “a cornerstone of our Earth-observing capability” by former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

And for very good reason. Data delivered to Earth by Landsat satellites are used to detect and measure land cover and land-use change, the health of various ecosystems, water availability, and more.

This data informs and influences not just the U.S., but countries all across the world. Leaders and decision-makers from several nations use freely available Landsat data to develop and fine-tune a deeper understanding of environmental change, respond to natural disasters, and even forecast future crop production. In a word, Landsat is essential — to all of us here on Earth.

AtlasV Rocket at Vandenberg Courtesy UCLA cropped


Did you know Lompoc, California is the best viewpoint for launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base? If you’re planning to try and catch the launch, know that Vandenberg is an active military base allowing pre-authorized personnel only, therefore it is not possible to watch launches on base. We encourage viewers to come to the viewing event at Lompoc Airport, or there are some areas nearby such as Surf Beach, West Ocean Avenue, Sata Lucia Canyon Road & Victory Road, Harris Grade Road, and Hawk’s Nest that can be great viewpoints. Lompoc is a fantastic home base for exploring the region and trying to catch a launch. If you’re looking for a place to stay, or activities to do while you’re in town, we’ve got you covered. Lompoc is extremely proud to play a small role in the remarkable living history and legacy of the Landsat program.

Celebrate with us! Landsat Events in Lompoc

Lompoc has space to explore, and had so many fun Landsat 9 launch events and activities during the month of September, 2021! Planning to stay in Lompoc? We'd be delighted to host you at one of our relaxing hotels.

Since 1972, Landsat has Been History in the Making

On July 23, 1972, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS-1) raced into the deep reaches of space on board a Delta 900 rocket launched from Vandenberg SFB. The first Earth-observing satellite launched to monitor and study our planet’s massive and diverse landmasses, ERTS-1 was rechristened Landsat 1 in 1975 — and continued to collect data through January of 1978.

From that day forward, eight unique and truly remarkable Landsat satellites have amassed an amazing archive of more than 8 million images. Consistency in Landsat’s spatial resolution, calibration, and spectral characteristics over the past four decades allows for consistent, quality, and long-term comparisons of both historical and current data. The longer the satellites view the Earth, the more phenomena we can observe and understand — including changing areas of irrigated global agriculture, systemic conversion of forest to pasture, and other activities where both human and natural environmental pressures are causing sizable shifts in land use.

To demonstrate the depth, reach, power, and longevity of the Landsat Program, consider that Landsat 5 delivered high-quality, global data of Earth’s land surface for just under 29 years after its March 1, 1984 launch from Vandenberg SFB — officially setting a new Guinness World Record for “longest-operating Earth observation satellite” in the process. Originally designed for three years of space operation, Landsat 5 would go on to orbit Earth more than 150,000 times — while transmitting over 2.5 million rich images of global surface conditions.

Landsat 5 housed the long-running Multispectral Scanner (MSS) and Thematic Mapper (TM) instruments onboard, and in the 37-plus years since its record-shattering launch, three subsequent satellites have departed Vandenberg SFB for the harsh yet illuminating environs of outer space. Landsat 6-8 have deployed increasingly advanced instrumentation and technology, and the launch of Landsat 9 this summer will mark yet another milestone in the advancement of this historic and vital program.

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Landsat 9: Amassing Land Data for the Next Half-Century

Landsat 8 achieved a successful launch on Feb. 11, 2013, and the Landsat data archive continues to expand today. Officially announced on April 16, 2015, Landsat 9 will be delivered into orbit via a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 Vehicle during a September 2021 launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Landsat 9 is composed of three distinct yet equally vital mission segments — space (spacecraft and instruments), launch, and ground. NASA is responsible for developing both the space and launch segments, while the USGS oversees development of the ground segment — and operation of the post-launch mission. These post-launch duties include satellite operation and management of all data downlinking, processing, and delivery aspects.

As Landsat 9 orbits the Earth 14 times a day from a height of nearly 440 miles, its instruments will expertly capture data and more than 700 daily visuals across a vast, 115-mild wide range. Each pixel in these images will measure 30 meters wide — approximately the size of a baseball infield.

ExploreLompoc GeoTour Landsat Logo Final OL widecrop


NASA, USGS, Explore Lompoc, and the City of Lompoc invite you to commemorate the launch of Landsat 9 with an exciting new GeoTour! Celebrate 50 years of Landsat missions by discovering unique science and space-related geocaches in and around Lompoc, California.

Logo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


Join NASA for 9 weeks of Summer Camp fun as we count down to Landsat 9 launch this September! (Camp dates have now passed.)