By a majority vote of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Board of Directors, the Society has issued a resolution calling for immediate support and funding for the continuation of the nation's Landsat Program. Due to a technical failure in the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument on-board the Landsat 7 spacecraft in May 2003, collection of useful moderate-resolution, multispectral remote sensing data has been jeopardized. Collection of these data of the Earth's land masses on a continuous basis is critical to the environmental integrity of the Earth as the Landsat images (have been) are used to monitor global crop status and predict yields, map environmental conditions for defense-intelligence purposes, assess rates of deforestation and reforestation, monitor land cover changes and urban growth, plot wildfire boundaries and assess post-fire burn severity, and more.

In the resolution, ASPRS cautions the U.S. Government to not try to commercialize the Landsat program, since moderate-resolution, multispectral remote sensing satellite systems have not proven to be commercially viable. To date, the U.S. Government has rejected the only bid it received for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) in a competition designed to commercialize the Landsat Program. In addition, ASPRS urges the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior to join with the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other government agencies to build and launch a government owned-operated Landsat within the next 24 to 36 months.

Finally, in the spirit of the recent Earth Observation Summit in July 2003, ASPRS requests that the U.S. Government pursue international cooperation as a long-term approach for supporting, managing and sustaining moderate-resolution, multispectral land observation systems. "The U.S. Government must plan for constant data continuity and immediate replacement of the Landsat 7 spacecraft," said ASPRS President Donald T. Lauer. "In the long-run, however, 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 pursue international cost-sharing partners, starting with the European Space Agency, who have the same or very similar program objectives," he emphasized.

This resolution has been sent to President George W. Bush; the Cabinet; Senate and House Leadership; Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Geospatial Industry Executives; Members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior; and others.

Source: SpatialNews, Dec. 3, 2003