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?

Exploring Earth’s Past: A Journey with Historical Satellite Imagery

In the vast expanse of space, silent sentinels have orbited our planet for decades, capturing snapshots of Earth’s ever-changing surface. These celestial observers—satellites—have been our eyes in the sky, revealing the secrets of bygone eras. From the disco days of the 1970s to the turn of the millennium, these technological marvels have chronicled our world’s evolution.

Landsat Program - The Pioneers: Satellites of Yesteryears

1. Landsat-1 (1972): 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.

1. Landsat-1 (1972): A Trailblazer in Earth Observation

  • 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-8 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.

Unlocking the Past with Landsat Data

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.

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


  • 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 (Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre)

  • Launch Date: The first SPOT satellite, SPOT-1, was launched in 1986.
  • 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.

2. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Satellites

  • NOAA-6 to NOAA-19: These 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 (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer)

  • Launch Date: MODIS 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. AVHRR (Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer)

  • Years of Operation: AVHRR instruments have been on NOAA satellites since the 1970s.
  • Spatial Resolution: AVHRR provides moderate-resolution imagery (around 1.1 kilometers).
  • Applications: It contributes to climate studies, oceanography, and land surface monitoring.

Historical Context: AVHRR data have been pivotal in tracking long-term climate trends.

5. GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites)

  • Geostationary Orbit: Unlike polar-orbiting satellites, GOES 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?