Today, history was made at the EROS Data Center near Sioux Falls.
One of the main missions at EROS is to study planet Earth itself.
And about 10 hours ago, their ability to conduct those studies received a huge shot in the arm.
At two minutes after noon, this rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Its mission would be to carry a new satellite....called Landsat 8...into Earth orbit. From there, the satellite will deploy solar panels and get it's energy from the sun....and then it will begin gathering all sorts of information.
"Information on vegetation, information on water, information on land forms and how each of those is impacted by people."Doctor Frank Kelly is the director of the EROS Data Center and he says Landsat 8 will be a silent detective...taking pictures and sending those images to EROS...where they can be studied and reviewed. And while this is most definitely an academic exercise...it also has a little bit of heart to it.
"When they touched that thing off it was something to see." Bob Sanders is a former newspaper reporter who has been following the history of the EROS Data Center since it's inception 40 years ago. And he is in awe of what is accomplished here...and how those accomplishments build upon themselves with events like this satellite launch. "It's just amazing...the international scientists that come in here to study. They were all in there lined up along the back row. they were really excited."
And there is a lot of excitement right now. not only for the data that Landsat 8 will record....but for what EROS will be able to do with that data once they have it. "How best do we use agriculture? how are we using our water resources? are there climate change impacts?"
Landsat's 8 launch was monitored by two separate tracking stations: one in Norway....one in Alaska... both making sure there were no problems with either the launch or the satellite getting into orbit. So far...everything is going well.