In 2002, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched a program to enhance the acquisition, preservation, and use of remotely sensed data for USGS science programs, as well as for those of cooperators and customers. Remotely sensed data are fundamental tools for studying the Earth's land surface, including coastal and near-shore environments. For many decades, the USGS has been a leader in providing remotely sensed data to the national and international communities. Acting on its historical topographic mapping mission, the USGS has archived and distributed aerial photographs of the United States for more than half a century. Since 1972, the USGS has acquired, processed, archived, and distributed Landsat and other satellite and airborne remotely sensed data products to users worldwide. Today, the USGS operates and manages the Landsats 5 and 7 missions and cooperates with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to define and implement future satellite missions that will continue and expand the collection of moderate-resolution remotely sensed data.
In addition to being a provider of remotely sensed data, the USGS is a user of these data and related remote sensing technology. These data are used in natural resource evaluations for energy and minerals, coastal environmental surveys, assessments of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides), biological surveys and investigations, water resources status and trends analyses and studies, and geographic and cartographic applications, such as wildfire detection and tracking and as a source of information for The National Map. The program furthers these distinct but related roles by leading the USGS activities in providing remotely sensed data while advancing applications of such data for USGS programs and a wider user community.