NASA’s Historic Earth Observation Satellite EO-1 Bids Goodbye
NASA will retire its Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite by the end of March, 17 years after it was launched to space. Launched on November 21, 2000, EO-1 satellite made history for being the first to map active lava flows from space, the first to measured a facility’s methane leak from space, and also the first to track re-growth in a partially logged Amazon forest from space.
NASA plans to decommission the satellite on March 30, 2017 by draining its energy. Left without any fuel, the satellite will not remain in its present orbit and will enter Earth’s atmosphere until 2056. When this occurs, all its components will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
“We’ll probably just see EO-1 as a streak in the sky as it disintegrates,” said scientist Betsy Middleton. Middleton is EO-1’s Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
NASA launched EO-1 as part of the agency’s New Millennium Program. Its mission focused on testing cutting-edge satellite and instrument technologies. Middleton explained that EO-1 has changed the way the science community makes and uses the spectral Earth measurements.
NASA Used EO-1 Data To Develop New Technology
The satellite carries 13 new technologies. These include three new instruments – the Advanced Land Imager (ALI); a hyperspectral instrument called Hyperion; and a hyperspectral imager.
The ALI provides data on forest cover, crops, coastal waters and aerosols. In addition, its instrument design and onboard technology directly shaped the design of the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, currently in orbit.
On the other hand, NASA will include Hyperion data in the development of the future hyperspectral satellite. This future satellite will focus on identification and assessment of the world’s ecosystem.
By using these two instruments, the mission team acquired high-resolution images of events and natural disasters around the world. Upon request, the team could direct the instruments at a specific location to gather images. EO-1 captured scenes such as the ash after the World Trade Center attacks, the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, volcanic eruptions and a large methane leak in southern California.
Originally, EO-1 was supposed to last one year only. Since the satellite had no major issues or breakdown, NASA extended the mission. On a shoestring budget contributed by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Reconnaissance Office and Naval Research Laboratory, the satellite continued to operate for sixteen more years, resulting in more than 1,500 papers published on EO-1 research.