Civil and Environmental Engineering



Michael A. Wulder, Natural Resources CanadaFollow
Thomas R. Loveland, U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
David P. Roy, Michigan State University
Christopher J. Crawford, ASRC Federal InuTeq/U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Jeffrey G. Masek, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Curtis E. Woodcock, Boston University
Richard G. Allen, University of Idaho Research and Extension Center
Martha C. Anderson, Hydrology and Remote Sensing LaboratoryFollow
Alan S. Belward, Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Warren B. Cohen, PNW Research Station
John Dwyer, U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Angela Erb, University of Massachusetts Boston
Feng Gao, Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory
Patrick Griffiths, Applications & Climate Department
Dennis Helder, South Dakota State University Brookings
Txomin Hermosilla, Natural Resources Canada & University of British Columbia
James D. Hipple, Risk Management Agency
Patrick Hostert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
M. Joseph Hughes, Oregon State University
Justin Huntington, Desert Research Institute
David M. Johnson, United States Department of Agriculture
Robert Kennedy, Oregon State University
Ayse Kilic, University of Nebraska-LincolnFollow
Zhan Li, Natural Resources Canada
Leo Lymburner, Geoscience Australia
Joel McCorkel, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Nima Pahlevan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center & Science Systems and Applications, Inc.
Theodore A. Scambos, University of Colorado
Crystal Schaaf, Boston University
John R. Schott, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science
Yongwei Sheng, University of California, Los Angeles
James Storey, Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Eric Vermote, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
James Vogelmann, U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Joanne C. White, Canadian Forest Service (Pacific Forestry Centre), Natural Resources Canada
Randolph H. Wynne, Virginia Tech, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Zhe Zhu, Texas Tech University & University of Connecticut

Document Type


Date of this Version



2019 Published by Elsevier Inc

Comments M.A. Wulder, et al. Remote Sensing of Environment 225 (2019) 127–147


Formal planning and development of what became the first Landsat satellite commenced over 50 years ago in 1967. Now, having collected earth observation data for well over four decades since the 1972 launch of Landsat- 1, the Landsat program is increasingly complex and vibrant. Critical programmatic elements are ensuring the continuity of high quality measurements for scientific and operational investigations, including ground systems, acquisition planning, data archiving and management, and provision of analysis ready data products. Free and open access to archival and new imagery has resulted in a myriad of innovative applications and novel scientific insights. The planning of future compatible satellites in the Landsat series, which maintain continuity while incorporating technological advancements, has resulted in an increased operational use of Landsat data. Governments and international agencies, among others, can now build an expectation of Landsat data into a given operational data stream. International programs and conventions (e.g., deforestation monitoring, climate change mitigation) are empowered by access to systematically collected and calibrated data with expected future continuity further contributing to the existing multi-decadal record. The increased breadth and depth of Landsat science and applications have accelerated following the launch of Landsat-8, with significant improvements in data quality.

Herein, we describe the programmatic developments and institutional context for the Landsat program and the unique ability of Landsat to meet the needs of national and international programs. We then present the key trends in Landsat science that underpin many of the recent scientific and application developments and followup with more detailed thematically organized summaries. The historical context offered by archival imagery combined with new imagery allows for the development of time series algorithms that can produce information on trends and dynamics. Landsat-8 has figured prominently in these recent developments, as has the improved understanding and calibration of historical data. Following the communication of the state of Landsat science, an outlook for future launches and envisioned programmatic developments are presented. Increased linkages between satellite programs are also made possible through an expectation of future mission continuity, such as developing a virtual constellation with Sentinel-2. Successful science and applications developments create a positive feedback loop—justifying and encouraging current and future programmatic support for Landsat.