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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 29th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 31

Landsat 9 takes off from Vandenberg

By Taylor O'Connor

NASA launched an Earth-observing satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sept. 27, continuing a 50-year land observation program and cementing a recently developed partnership between the space agency and Lompoc. 

Lompoc residents and tourists gathered at the Lompoc Airport to watch the Landsat 9 launch on Sept. 27.

Lompoc’s tourism district, Explore Lompoc, collaborated with NASA in a year-long effort to prepare for Landsat 9’s launch, according to Explore Lompoc President Gilda Cordova. 

“NASA wanted to provide activities the community members could take part of as well as all of the visitors that came into town for the launch,” Cordova said. 

Together, the two organizations hosted community activities and learning opportunities the week before the launch, Cordova said. 

“For us, the roaring thunder of launches is an everyday thing, but we’ve established a great partnership and hope to continue inviting people into Lompoc,” she added.

Lompoc’s official partnership with NASA started during the 2018 Mission to Mars where the two hosted similar events for the community and more than 5,000 people attended the launch, Cordova said.  

Several stations were set up at Landsat 9 launch where people could learn about the satellite’s structure, see temperature changes’ impact in the arctic circle, create an arts and crafts collage, and pick up goodie bags to take home.  

This type of satellite has launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base since 1972, making Landsat the longest land-sensing program with more than 9 million photos captured, said Landsat 9 project scientist Jeff Masek.

The satellite is about the size of a bus or a minivan with two instruments on board that will capture 740 photos a day, he added. One of the devices will capture Earth’s surface like a camera and the other is a thermal infrared sensor sensitive to surface temperature. 

“Landsat itself doesn’t sense climate change by taking the temperature of the atmosphere, but it does show us the impacts of climate change on ecosystems over the course of decades,” Masek said. “Being in California, Landsat has a big application in looking at wildfires and forest fires. We are looking at the vegetation patterns and severity of the burns as well as long-term recoveries and how management approaches are helping or hurting that.” 

The satellite’s information helps Lompoc City Council in its own environmental decision-making, Mayor Jenelle Osborne said. 

“In particular, the satellite helps us really determine a lot of policies and decisions with land use,” she said. 

Osborne hopes the partnership with NASA will continue into the future. 

“It’s not only a partnership between all of the individuals putting the satellites into orbit, but it’s been a partnership with the community,” she said. “It isn’t us and them, we are a part of this global experience. There’s a real opportunity for our local community to have careers, jobs, and be a part of the future.”

Weekly Poll
What do you think about tree thinning as a form of wildfire management?

It's a smart option in order to prevent wildfires from spreading rapidly.
It's an interesting strategy that saves wildlife and prevents homes from being damaged.
We should focus on home-hardening rather than messing with the forest.
Fire season is inevitable with climate change; at this point we should try anything.

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