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NASA launches Landsat 8 satellite to better study the skies above, water below

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NASA's Landsat program recently turned the big four-oh, and what better way to deal with the mid-life crisis by getting a new satellite as a present? Accordingly, the space agency has just launched Landsat 8 into orbit to give its Earth Science program a new injection of youth. The new vehicle improves the accuracy of existing light and thermal sensors while widening the scope to better reflect modern climate studies -- number 8 now tracks aerosols in the atmosphere, high cirrus clouds and the telltale signs of water quality and consumption levels. We won't get the first USGS-derived results from the new satellite until after a 100-day shakedown period, but we're sure the deeper understanding of our planet will help the Landsat program forget all about those first few gray hairs.

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