Images of Life begins with footage of a variety of daily activities, from cooking to working and tending to animals, carried out by humans across the globe (00:20-01:50). Produced in 1977 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the United States Agency for International Development, the film was written and directed by Gene Starbecker in collaboration with Hearst Metrotone Productions. The informational reel was one of three films and part of a larger space age series intended to show developing nations how new technologies could help improve living conditions globally. The narrator emphasizes that all people have the same basic needs and are subject to the circumstances and locations in which they were born. Lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water are resources for irrigation, drinking, and hydroelectricity (03:15-03:30). The film examines how decision-makers must use data to determine the best use of the environment's resources. At 04:03 we see overhead shots of land within a rain belt that has had extensive tree removal. The narrator emphasizes the importance of national planners using tools to determine the effects of decisions made regarding natural resources. Space technology offers a powerful tool to measure such effects on a grand scale. A view of earth from outer space is shown at 04:44. Earth Resources Satellite Technology, or Landsat, was developed and launched in 1972 by NASA to monitor the earth's landmasses. A graphic visual shows the unmanned space satellite circling the earth from pole to pole, scanning the surface of the planet and taking fourteen images each day. Data from the satellite is transmitted to ground stations as it scans each section of the earth to form a complete data set (05:00-06:25). Canada, Brazil, and Italy also operate their own Landsats. Landsat's images from space provide researchers with vital information about the planet, such as the amount of the earth's surface that consists of desert, or the direction of movement and the consistency of the sand itself (15:20-16:50). Scientists can then use this information to inform where workers are directed to build transportation routes and other infrastructure. The nomadic Masai people inhabiting Eastern Africa search for water and grass for their herds at 18:02. Data from Landsat can help these people locate vegetation that has not receded due to overgrazing.
The Landsat program is the longest-running enterprise for acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. On July 23, 1972 the Earth Resources Technology Satellite was launched. This was eventually renamed to Landsat. The most recent, Landsat 8, was launched on February 11, 2013. The instruments on the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images. The images, archived in the United States and at Landsat receiving stations around the world, are a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education, and can be viewed through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 'EarthExplorer' website. Landsat 7 data has eight spectral bands with spatial resolutions ranging from 15 to 60 meters (49 to 197 ft); the temporal resolution is 16 days. Landsat images are usually divided into scenes for easy downloading. Each Landsat scene is about 115 miles long and 115 miles wide (or 100 nautical miles long and 100 nautical miles wide, or 185 kilometers long and 185 kilometers wide).
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