The United States Geological Survey is poised to shut down the Landsat 5, an observational satellite that has been circling our fair planet since 1984. The announcement comes about 25 years after when the satellite was originally slated for deactivation. During its life span, Landsat 5 has taken over 2.5 million snapshots.
The satellite is being shut down due to a gyroscope that broke, which the USGS announced on December 21. The gyroscope cannot be repaired, and thus ends the Landsat 5's long life. The satellite's decommissioning won't be instant, however, with the USGS stating that it will take place over most of 2013. The unit has made in excess of 150,000 trips around the Earth.
The Geological Survey's Director Marcia McNutt offered this statement. "Any major event since 1984 that left a mark on this Earth larger than a football field was likely recorded by Landsat 5, whether it was a hurricane, a tsunami, a wildfire, deforestation, or an oil spill." The Landsat legacy won't die with the Landsat 5, however.
The USGS has another observational satellite in orbit, the Landsat 7, which was launched in 1999. Likewise, there are plans to launch another dubbed the Landsat 8 in February. The first Landsat satellite, the Landsat 1, was launched in July of 1972. Says Anne Castle of the Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, "This is the end of an era for a remarkable satellite, and the fact that it flew for almost three decades is a testament to the NASA engineers and the USGS team who launched it and kept it flying well beyond its expected lifetime."