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 A group of nearly 20 Black Hills State University faculty, staff and recent graduates hiked up Lookout Mountain yesterday to mark their place in history by taking a photo at the same moment Landsat 8, the newest Earth Observation satellite, took its first official flight over Spearfish.
A group of nearly 20 Black Hills State University faculty, staff and recent graduates hiked up Lookout Mountain yesterday to mark their place in history by taking a panoramic photo at the same moment Landsat 8, the newest Earth observation satellite, took its first official flight over Spearfish. 

The group held a banner with the words “Congratulations, USGS EROS From your friends and colleagues at BHSU – First operational overflight of Landsat 8 – 6 June, 2013 11:39 a.m.” The U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS), located near Sioux Falls, helped design and is now heading up the operations for Landsat 8. EROS is one of South Dakota’s largest research organizations.

Landsat 8, launched in February, is the latest in a series of remote-sensing satellites which have monitored changes in the Earth’s landscape from space for more than four decades. The Landsat program is a joint effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

"As someone who studies the Earth's landscape, the entire Landsat program is a gold mine," said Dr. Robert Campbell, associate professor of history at BHSU. "And as a South Dakotan, it's great that our state played an expanded role in designing and operating this particular satellite."

Since Landsat 8’s launch earlier this year, NASA mission engineers and scientists, with USGS collaboration, have been calibrating detectors and collecting test images. Landsat 8 began itsofficial mission last week with USGS specialists collecting 400 satellite images every day from around the world. The images will be processed and added to the archived collection at USGS’s EROS. The South Dakota research facility maintains a comprehensive, permanent and impartial record of the planet’s surface derived from Landsat’s more than 40 years of remote sensing.

 

This is a satellite image of Landsat 8's flight over Spearfish yesterday. The red circle marks the spot where the BHSU group was at the time the satellite crossed over.

Campbell hopes to have the panoramic photo featuring Spearfish and the BHSU campus presented to EROS later this year. "People have joined ground photography with aerial and satellite images for a long time," he said. "It's usually a quiet process, but for this first flight of the new satellite I thought it would be fun to make it a little celebration. And people at BH like to hike."

Becca Gage, a recent BHSU graduate, participated in yesterday’s hike noting how great it was to gather as a University and take part in a historical event in aerospace research.   “Hiking to the H was a great opportunity to gather with old friends and faculty and do something very memorable for my college,” she said.

Campbell interned for EROS when he was in graduate school in the 1990s. During his internship, he worked with scientists to document the changes in the Earth’s landscape between two satellite images and the reasons for the changes. Campbell then created an EROS website to distribute that information. 

Campbell encourages BHSU students to apply for internships at EROS, noting that it is one of the state's largest research organizations with positions in a variety of fields. “I’m always looking for opportunities for collaboration between BHSU and EROS,” he said. "It's great when you have a world-class facility nearby, and it just makes sense for the state's research organizations to work together."­