University of Wisconsin–Madison
Spatial Analysis For Conservation and Sustainability

Benefits of the free and open Landsat data policy

Download Zhu_etal_RSE_Landsat_policy_2019

The United States (U.S.) federal government provides imagery obtained by federally funded Earth Observation
satellites typically at no cost. For many years Landsat was an exception to this trend, until 2008 when the United
States Geological Survey (USGS) made Landsat data accessible via the internet for free. Substantial increases in
downloads of Landsat imagery ensued and led to a rapid expansion of science and operational applications,
serving government, private sector, and civil society. The Landsat program hence provides an example to space
agencies worldwide on the value of open access for Earth Observation data and has spurred the adaption of
similar policies globally, including the European Copernicus Program. Here, we describe important aspects of
the Landsat free and open data policy and highlight the importance and continued relevance of this policy.