Featured Terra Image
Fifteen Years of Terra
Fifteen years ago on December 18th, Terra was launched and started to see Earth for the first time. As the Flagship Earth Observing Satellite, Terra was the first satellite to look at Earth system science, collecting multiple types of data dedicated to various areas of Earth science. It joined other satellites designed to monitor specific areas of Earth science and has since been joined by others that all work in concert to collect data that leads to a better understanding of how our planet functions as a whole.
Since Terra’s launch, scientists are able to document relationships between Earth’s systems and examine their connections. Through every pass that Terra makes and every piece of data it and the other Earth Observing Satellites collect, the picture of our earth gets richer, revealing trends and connections for the entire earth, impacting all of Earth’s inhabitants.
The images above are the first images captured by each of Terra’s five instruments in 2000, shortly after Terra’s launch.
- ASTER: Afar Triangle in the Eritrea/Red Sea
- MOPITT: Channel 1 Difference Radiances of Global Swath
- MISR: James Bay, Ontario, Canada
- CERES: Global Solar Flux and Emitted Terrestrial Flux
- MODIS: Mississippi River Delta
These images were the first attempts to tell the story of Earth’s systems. With every pass of Terra the story becomes richer with data.
Terra’s original design life was 6 years, after 15 years in orbit, Terra has been collecting valuable data about our planet for two and a half times its planned lifetime. This is due in no small part to the dedicated scientists and engineers who built, launched, and continue to maintain this valuable spacecraft that has surpassed its original mission objectives and continues to make outstanding contributions to Earth science.
Congratulations Terra and all of those who continue to support this exceptional mission. Happy fifteenth anniversary!
To learn more about some of Terra and the other EOS mission’s contributions, read the new NASA feature story, Earth From Space: 15 Amazing Things in 15 Years
Terra: the EOS Flagship
Terra explores the connections between Earth's atmosphere, land, snow and ice, ocean, and energy balance to understand Earth's climate and climate change and to map the impact of human activity and natural disasters on communities and ecosystems.
Terra collects data about the Earth’s bio-geochemical and energy systems using five sensors that observe the atmosphere, land surface, oceans, snow and ice, and energy budget. Each sensor has unique features that enable scientists to meet a wide range of science objectives. The five Terra onboard sensors are:
- ASTER, or Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
- CERES, or Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System
- MISR, or Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer
- MODIS, or Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
- MOPITT, or Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere
Because Terra's five sensors share a platform, they collect complementary observations of Earth's surface and atmosphere. These varying perspectives of the same event can yield unique insights into the processes that connect Earth's systems.