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Gilbert-built Landsat 9 satellite sends first images

In late September, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey launched the Landsat 9 satellite, which was built, tested and fitted with instruments by Northrop Grumman in Gilbert.

Now, the spacecraft has sent back its first images, including some shots of the Grand Canyon State.

Landsat 9's capacity to discern 64 times as many color shades as its predecessor was evident in its first images, which included observations of the Four Corners area of Arizona.

Images compiled from the craft's multiple visible and infrared bands will inform nearly 50 years of Earth observations.

They will help track changes in crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat and urban expansion.

Following Landsat 9's 100-day shakedown, NASA will hand operations over to USGS. In tandem with Landsat 8, the craft will cover the globe every eight days.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.