Representatives of Landsat ground stations worldwide converged on Washington, DC, early in March 2008 for the 17th Landsat Technical Workgroup Meeting. South Africa's ground station (the only operational one in southern Africa) was represented by earth observation specialist Helmut Neumann and system administrator Rina Gremels of the CSIR Satellite Applications Centre.
Representatives of Landsat ground stations worldwide at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Helmut Neumann is fourth from the left in the front row facing the camera; Rina Gremels is in the middle of the back row
The CSIR has received, processed and distributed earth observation data received from the Landsat Program since 1972. Landsat data are specifically useful for evaluating the dynamic changes caused by both natural processes and human practices.
Neumann and Gremels joined fellow scientists and engineers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and ground stations in Thailand, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Japan, Brazil and Canada for the five-day meeting. The event was hosted by the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Networking and information gathering were useful to both CSIR staffers. Of immediate relevance was the USGS's announcement of the planned launch of the Landsat 8 satellite in July 2011, which constitutes the Landsat data continuity mission. "With Landsat 5 starting its 25th year in orbit, the usefulness of the current data received is limited," confirms Neumann. "The new satellite will change this and the user community should be able to improve research projects, using the better data." Equally valuable were the reports by each ground station on current operations and future plans.
This meeting follows that of international representatives from the Landsat Ground Station Operations Working Group (LGSOWG), hosted by the CSIR in South Africa during October 2007.