Both interesting and somber: US Geological Survey will soon shut down Landsat 5, an observational satellite that has been running since 1984. Landsat 5 was designed for a three-year run, but it’s now orbited the Earth over 150,000 times and transmitted 2.5 million images in nearly three decades, making it the longest-running Earth-observing satellite (yay!), though not the oldest satellite still in orbit. Ready for the fun fact?
Okay, let’s see: “Any major event since 1984 that left a mark on this Earth larger than a football field was likely recorded by Landsat 5, whether it was a hurricane, a tsunami, a wildfire, deforestation, or an oil spill,” says USGS Director Marcia McNutt.
But as of December 21st, the USGS announced that a gyroscope had broken, putting it beyond repair. Thus, it will be decommissioned over the next few months. As for the other USGS observation satellite, Landsat 7, launched in 1999 and is still running, while Landsat 8 is scheduled to launch in February of 2013.