The Landsat Earth observation approach introduced in 1972 created a new way of monitoring land cover and land use globally. The Landsat 7 mission, successfully launched on April 15, 1999, continues those observations and demonstrates significant progress in precise numerical radiometry, spectral differentiation, and seasonally repetitive monitoring. Substantial improvements in calibration procedures, both prior to launch and during normal operations, have also been made to ensure long-term stability in the acquired spectral radiometry. Landsat 7 data acquisitions are being driven by a long-term data acquisition plan that was designed to ensure that substantially cloud-free, seasonal coverage would be recorded and archived in the US for all land areas of the globe. NASA competitively selected a Landsat Science Team, consisting of representatives from US universities and government agencies, to exploit the Landsat 7 record for global change research. This team is addressing the technical and analytical means to process and analyze the core of this observation record, and for the first time in the history of the Landsat mission, the technical and operational aspects of the mission are being driven by the goals of the US science community. The expected outcome of these efforts is a rapid improvement in understanding the Earth system, as well as conceptual knowledge that will underpin significant advancements in the application of this technology for commercial, operational, educational, and research purposes. Pathways to achieve effective Landsat continuity in the early decades of the 21st century are also being given careful attention, and there is no question that the lessons learned from the Landsat 7 mission will strongly influence these next-generation sensor systems.