• NASA has demonstrated that it is the civil agency with the technical capacity and the congressional support to design and build civilian space missions.
• The USGS-operated data management and distribution systems function effectively and efficiently.
• NOAA uses Landsat data to monitor Earth’s coastal regions, but NOAA’s primary use of satellite data focuses on the ocean and the atmosphere.
• Building a satellite sequence with new requirements and technologies for each individual instrument is an expensive way to acquire land imaging data and inhibits the addition of new capabilities.
• A sustained land imaging program will not be viable under the current mission development and management practices.
The committee’s primary recommendation is that the U.S. government should establish a Sustained and Enhanced Land Imaging Program with persistent funding to respond to current and future national needs. Such a program would
• Develop a plan for a comprehensive, integrated program that capitalizes on the strengths of USGS and NASA, maintains current capability and the existing archive, and enhances the program as technology enables new imaging capabilities and data products;
• Ensure acquisition of land imaging data continuously from orbital platforms and, periodically, from airborne platforms, to respond to the needs of producers and consumers of derived data products along with users who analyze imagery;
• Establish partnerships with commercial firms and international land imaging programs to leverage enhanced capabilities;
• Coordinate land imaging data buys across the U.S. government; and
• Include a research and development component to improve data products based on core measurements and to develop new measurement methods and consider evolving requirements.
For the Sustained and Enhanced Land Imaging Program to be successful, program responsibilities should be divided between USGS and NASA such that the agency responsible for balancing science requirements with mission complexity and cost is also provided with the necessary budget. Both agencies should participate in an iterative process to design missions that meet the needs of research and operational communities, but final decisions should be made by the agency that has been given the budget.
The committee has not recommended where in the government the SELIP should reside. In the committee’s opinion, recommending how the government should make this organizational decision would not be appropriate. A discussion of the committee’s reasoning for this decision is included in the section “Charge to the Committee.”