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Satellite to keep watch over Earth

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LOS ANGELES -- A new Earth-observing satellite is set to provide another watchful eye over our planet's glaciers, forests, water resources and urban sprawl.

If all goes as planned, the Landsat satellite will be launched into orbit Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

It would be the eighth such satellite in a series designed to continuously track natural changes and society's influence on Earth's resources.

Since the maiden launch in 1972, the satellites have been providing "uninterrupted observations," David Jarrett, program executive at NASA headquarters, said during a pre-launch news conference on Friday.

During the past 40 years, the Landsat satellites have been key in documenting changes to the Earth, pinpointing where droughts are occurring, how crops across the globe are faring and how erosion is affecting coastlines.

The satellites also have recorded retreating glaciers in Greenland, captured the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and recovery aftermath, tracked population growth in Phoenix and deforestation in the Amazon.

Although NASA aimed for a Monday liftoff, launch director Omar Baez said there were two remaining engineering issues to complete. It was too early to know whether that would affect the launch schedule, he said.

The newest Landsat will be the most powerful yet. Once in orbit, it will circle the Earth 14 times a day.

It was expected to beam back 400 images a day to ground stations in South Dakota, Alaska and Norway. As in previous missions, the images will be freely available on the Internet.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2013 A23

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