Interactive map of old satellite images

We’ve developed an interactive web app that overlays Landsat images from the 1980s with those from 2024.

Explore how cities have expanded, forests have dwindled, and coastlines have shifted. It’s a glimpse into the past, and it’s entirely free.

Need satellite images from 1970s and beyond?

Table of Contents

Exploring Earth’s Past

A Journey with Historical Satellite Imagery

In space, a fleet of satellites has been orbiting Earth for decades, capturing detailed images of our changing landscape. From the 1970s to today, these satellites have served as powerful tools, providing essential data that helps us understand how landscapes, weather patterns, and city growth have evolved. This information is invaluable for businesses looking to make informed decisions based on environmental and geographical insights.

Landsat Program

The Pioneers: Satellites of Yesteryears

Imagine witnessing the birth of a city, the retreat of a glacier, or the transformation of a forest—all from space. Landsat’s historical imagery allows us to do just that. Whether tracking urban sprawl, monitoring agricultural productivity, or assessing environmental changes, these satellites have become our time machines, bridging the gap between past and present.

1. Landsat-1

A Trailblazer in Earth Observation

  • Launch Date: July 23, 1972
  • Mission: Landsat-1, the inaugural satellite of the Landsat program, revolutionized our understanding of Earth’s surface. Armed with multispectral sensors, it captured images across different wavelengths, unveiling patterns in land cover, vegetation health, and urban growth.
  • Legacy: Landsat-1 set the stage for subsequent missions, providing a consistent record of our planet since the days of bell-bottoms and lava lamps.

2. Landsat-2 to Landsat-9

A Continuity of Insight

  • Years of Operation: From the late 1970s to the present day
  • Frequency: These satellites revisit Earth’s surface every 14 to 16 days.
  • Data Richness: Landsat-2 to Landsat-9 continued the legacy, each contributing unique spectral bands and improved spatial resolution. They witnessed everything from deforestation in the Amazon to glacial retreat in the Himalayas.

This table offers a concise overview of the Landsat program‘s evolution, showcasing the advancements in spatial resolution, the expansion of spectral bands, and the consistency in revisit intervals over the decades. The launch and end dates mark the operational periods of each satellite, providing a timeline for this pivotal program in Earth observation history.

Overview of the Landsat Program
Landsat Mission Launch Date End Date Spatial Resolution Number of Bands Revisit Interval
Landsat 1 July 1972 January 1978 80m (MSS) 4 (MSS) 18 days
Landsat 2 January 1975 February 1983 80m (MSS) 4 (MSS) 18 days
Landsat 3 March 1978 March 1983 80m (MSS), 40m (RBV) 4 (MSS), 1 (RBV) 18 days
Landsat 4 July 1982 December 1993 30m (TM), 80m (MSS) 7 (TM), 4 (MSS) 16 days
Landsat 5 March 1984 June 2013 30m (TM), 80m (MSS) 7 (TM), 4 (MSS) 16 days
Landsat 6 (Failed Launch, October 1993) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Landsat 7 April 1999 Ongoing (as of 2023) 30m (ETM+), 60m (panchromatic) 8 (ETM+) 16 days
Landsat 8 February 2013 Ongoing (as of 2023) 30m (OLI/TIRS), 15m (panchromatic) 11 (OLI/TIRS) 16 days
Landsat 9 October 2021 Ongoing (as of 2023) 30m (OLI-2/TIRS-2), 15m (panchromatic) 11 16 days

Note:

  • MSS = Multispectral Scanner
  • RBV = Return Beam Vidicon
  • TM = Thematic Mapper
  • ETM+ = Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus
  • OLI/TIRS = Operational Land Imager and Thermal Infrared Sensor

Beyond Landsat

Exploring Other Historical Satellites

1. SPOT

  • Launch Date: The first SPOT (Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre) satellite, SPOT 1, was launched in 1986. SPOT 7 is the latest that was launched in 2014.
  • Spatial Resolution: SPOT satellites provided high-resolution imagery (ranging from 2.5 meters to 20 meters).
  • Applications: SPOT data were used for land cover mapping, urban planning, agriculture, and environmental monitoring.
  • Legacy: SPOT paved the way for commercial Earth observation, offering detailed views of our changing landscapes.
satellite image from SPOT - Amazon rain forest in brazil

Amazon Rainforest, Maraã, imaged by SPOT. Copyright: Airbus

2. NOAA Satellites

  • NOAA-6 to NOAA-19: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) polar-orbiting satellites have been capturing weather and environmental data since the 1970s.
  • Data Types: NOAA satellites provide critical meteorological information, including cloud cover, sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric profiles.
  • Impact: Their data aid in weather forecasting, climate studies, and disaster management.

3. MODIS

  • Launch Date: MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instruments flew aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites (launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively).
  • Spectral Bands: MODIS offers a wide range of spectral bands, from visible to thermal infrared.
  • Applications: It monitors vegetation health, sea surface temperatures, wildfires, and air quality.
  • Global Coverage: MODIS captures data at a global scale every 1 to 2 days.

4. GOES

  • Geostationary Orbit: Unlike polar-orbiting satellites, GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) satellites remain fixed above specific regions.
  • Weather Monitoring: GOES provides real-time imagery of weather patterns, storms, and atmospheric phenomena.
  • Legacy: GOES has been instrumental in severe weather prediction and monitoring.

Beyond the Horizon: Customized Solutions

Our journey through historical satellite imagery blends the past with present-day technology, offering an unparalleled glimpse into how our world has evolved. This blog post and our interactive web app serve as your gateway to exploring these fascinating changes. Join us in this adventure through time and, if you seek more, remember we are here to provide customized solutions for your specific needs. While our free tool covers specific years, we offer more.

Need data from the 1970s or early 2000s, or right now?