NASA and USGS launch Landsat 9 satellite to monitor Earth from afar

NASA and the US Geological Survey have successfully launched a joint mission involving Landsat 9, a satellite that will spend its days in space observing Earth's coastlines and landscapes over time. The mission launched at 2:12 PM ET on September 17 from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg using the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Landsat 9 is the latest satellite in the Landsat mission; the first was launched back in 1972, paving the way for a series of satellites with increasing capabilities that monitor our planet and the ways it changes over the years. Using these satellites, NASA is able to gather data on everything from coral reef health to water quality in different regions and how glaciers are evolving.

Landsat 9 is joining Landsat 8, its "sister satellite," according to NASA, which explains that the two satellites will work together to capture a series of images spanning the entire Earth every eight days.

For its part, Landsat 9 will feature the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) and the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2). With these instruments, the satellite will be able to measures 11 different light wavelengths, including wavelengths that can't be seen with the naked eye. Likewise, every pixel in an image captured by this satellite will represent 115 miles on Earth.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement about the joint Landsat 9 mission:

NASA uses the unique assets of our own unprecedented fleet, as well as the instruments of other nations, to study our own planet and its climate systems. With a 50-year data bank to build on, Landsat 9 will take this historic and invaluable global program to the next level. We look forward to working with our partners at the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior again on Landsat Next, because we never stop advancing our work to understand our planet.