Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM)



The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) Education and Public Outreach Program:

  • Supports NASA Agency and Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) goals in education and public outreach, and follows established NASA Science Mission Directorate Education guidelines, as outlined in the Explanatory Guide to the NASA Science Mission Directorate Education & Public Outreach Evaluation Factors
  • Provides opportunities for the public, educators, students, scientists and other professionals to be engaged with the science discoveries, application of data, and technological advances of the mission
  • Actively seeks and acts upon opportunities to engage a variety of audiences with the compelling stories of the mission
  • Builds upon, expands and deepens the impact of the rich education legacy of the Landsat Program
  • Emphasizes developing and sustaining strong and effective partnerships within and external to the agency
  • Provides programs, activities and products developed to meet a variety of customer needs, including those of underserved/under-represented audiences
  • Is lead by a team of professionals with credentials and extensive experience in education and outreach

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. In 1972 NASA embarked upon a journey of discovery and exploration of a unique planet in our solar system–Earth. For the first time, people were using remote sensing to obtain detailed views of our planet’s landscapes from the perspective of space. In the years since, we have learned how to use this new perspective to better understand the systems that characterize the only planet known to support life. Landsat satellites were the first U.S. satellites designed for observing land surfaces. This series of increasingly sophisticated instruments has provided uninterrupted data about the Earth's continental surfaces since 1972. This data constitutes the longest continuous record of the Earth's surface as seen from space. The LDCM EPO team is comprised of professional educators with proven expertise in formal and informal science education, and in remote sensing image processing and graphics capability. Combined experience in education represented by this team totals over 50 years, and includes expertise in developing educational products and teacher training for inquiry-based science and geography; researching, writing, development and production of science publications for the public, students, and education professionals; highly polished oral presentation skills; research, writing and development of exhibits in museum and National Park settings; professional development training methodology; web and publication design; remote sensing image processing; strategic planning; and project management. Team members also display strong academic backgrounds in science and geography. Overall guidance is provided by the LDCM Project Scientist and Program Manager. LDCM EPO works closely with the NASA science and education communities to accomplish its work.

This team also partners with multiple agencies and non-governmental organizations (ex. USGS, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (Esri), National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), 4H, the National Geospatial Technology Center, University of California at Berkeley, Tribal Colleges, and the Bureau of Indian Education), as well as partners from within NASA (ex., GSFC Education Office, NASA’s Heliophysics and Earth Science Forums). Through emphasizing a team and partnership approach, the reach and impact of the LDCM Education effort is enhanced.

LDCM EPO contributes to NASA’s efforts to inspire and support the public in their pursuit of lifelong learning in science, math, engineering, technology and geography by bringing compelling Landsat science and technology content into a variety of educational and outreach venues. This is accomplished through partnering and professional development efforts with informal and formal educators, provision of tutorials for streamlined access to remote sensing data, assisting educators in their efforts to reach the public, and several outreach efforts aimed directly at the public and other audiences.

Our strategy is based on existing NASA and GSFC Education guidelines and criteria, and supports NASA agency and Goddard Space Flight Center efforts in education and outreach. We recognize the impressive legacy of the NASA Landsat EPO program, building upon successes of the past. We actively use the power of networking and partnerships to achieve deeper and broader impact than could be accomplished through the direct efforts of a few individuals.

The work of the LDCM EPO falls into five areas of emphasis: Core Materials and Projects, Formal Education, Informal Education, Public Affairs, and Outreach. Core materials include the LDCM web site and social media accounts and a trainer's kit for educator professional development. Formal education efforts focus on iGETT, teacher workshops hosted by effective external programs, and student internships. Informal education activities include the Earth to Sky professional development partnership with the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife, educational publications, a traveling exhibit to support community-based education, podcasts, and a nascent citizen science program. Outreach efforts include booths at public events and conferences, participation in the Know your Earth outreach campaign, a book documenting Landsat's legacy, and support for NASA Office of Communications and Government and Community Relations. E&PO support for public affairs includes the review of content and support for video productions and web features.





The most significant partnership in Landsat education is a connection with the 3 communication and technical specialists on the E&PO team. The LDCM E&PO team relies heavily on partnerships to reach targeted audiences because we don't have the capacity for a broad reach on our own. We have established partnerships with programs that have been proven to be effective through external evaluation. The LDCM E&PO team provides training on how to access and use Landsat images and science in education and supplemental standards-based educational activities in educator professional development provided by partner organizations. Partners provide structured training and support for educators.

The primary partnerships are:

  • Earth to Sky: a NASA-National Park Service- Fish & Wildlife partnership that provides professional development to help interpreters integrate NASA science into their interactions with visitors.
  • iGETT: Funded primarily by the NSF, this program that trains community college GIS instructors to incorporate NASA data and science in to their classes. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, National Council for Geographic Education, the National Geospatial Technology Center, and the U.S. Geological Survey were partners in supporting iGETT.
  • 4H: We partnered with 4H to develop the framework of a citizen science program for teens (also with National Parks and New Mexico Museum)
  • National Parks: We partnered with National Parks to develop the framework of a citizen science program
  • New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science: We partnered with the museum to develop the framework of a citizen science program. We also provided content for an exhibit and professional development for their educators.





Effectiveness and Impact

Evaluation findings and impact statements:

The E&PO team does not manage its own education programs to reach teachers and students directly, because such efforts would be limited by our capacity. Instead, the team partners with programs that have been proven to be effective through external evaluation, have a broad reach, and meet the following criteria:

  • LDCM can uniquely address the activity (LDCM science fits the program's objectives)
  • The program has a clearly defined audience, is sustainable, helps feed the "pipeline" to bring students in to STEM professions, supports diversity, is well evaluated, and provides follow-up with educators or students
  • The program is cost and time effective for LDCM
  • The program fits well with existing work
  • The project methodology displays professional competency, is well thought-out and incorporates best practices
  • The program has a high level of impact
  • The program is well-designed and managed

We request evaluations from partnership programs to help us gauge the value of our contributions to their programs and the strength of the partnership. If the evaluation is not received or shows the program to be ineffective or a poor match with our content, we discontinue the partnership.

For two recent activities developed outside of these partnerships, we hired an external evaluator to provide formative evaluations. In the case of our traveling exhibit, we partnered with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's (OMSI) evaluation team to do a needs assessment survey of small museums and libraries to determine the size, style, and audience focus for the exhibit and a small formative evaluation to determine if the exhibit met goals for its targeted audience. For our new citizen science program (in early pilot testing), we hired an external evaluator, Colleen Kaiser, to help us set measurable objectives with partner organizations (4H, National Parks, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science) and evaluate the pilot program to identify problems in the data collection procedure. In both cases, the formative evaluations helped shape further development.

We support programs with meaningful evaluations so that we know the effort will be worthwhile before we form the partnership. If a partner organization does not provide an evaluation after we provide content, we discontinue support. Partner programs that have provided meaningful evaluations include iGETT and Earth to Sky.

For our exhibit, the OMSI evaluation team did an initial needs assessment of science museums and libraries, our target locations for community-based education. The results indicated that the exhibit content needed to reach a younger audience (6-12 years old) than we had planned. They also indicated that the exhibit needed to be smaller and lighter than initially designed. We adjusted the design and content to meet the needs of the organizations and then tested the design with the target audience and made further adjustments. A summative evaluation is just beginning. It will assess how well the exhibit meets its goals for the target audience.

We gauge the effectiveness of our communication effort by tracking statistics on our web site and social media accounts. All have shown steady growth, an indication that our communication efforts are engaging. For Landsat's 40th Anniversary in July 2012, our social media campaign reached an estimated 4 million people. A similar campaign for the LDCM launch in February 2013 reached an estimated 14 million people on Twitter. Launch-related communication activities reached nearly 18 million people. This growth is an indicator that our focus on social media has been effective.

We performed an internal evaluation of the Social we hosted for Landsat's 40th Anniversary. This event invited guests who are very active on social media to visit NASA Goddard for a tour, press conference, and other activities. The guests shared their experience throughout the day on social media. Our goals for the event were to build a community of people who are excited about Landsat and who will tune in to the mission during the anniversary and on through launch and first light. We hoped that this community would amplify our message to audiences we may not otherwise reach. An analysis of tweets and blogs after the event showed ongoing conversation, meaning that we did build a community. The event reached an estimated 4.2 million people through Twitter (statistic from The messages sent out by attendees included our key messages, but they also focused on things we did not expect.

Landsat E&PO partners with programs that are already having a positive impact on key audiences. For example, Elaine Leggett Craft, the external evaluator for the iGETT program, evaluated student performance in classes taught with learning units (LU) developed by community college professors during the iGETT experience. These learning units focused predominantly on Landsat data and science. The evaluation showed that: "almost 70% of respondents report increased student interest, and between two-thirds and half of respondents report that their students have demonstrated increased interest in enrolling in more geospatial technology courses, and that they have an increased understanding of career opportunities in geospatial technology. A few reported that using the LU improved student understanding, performance, or grades."

The program also had a proven impact on community college professors. The evaluation found: "90% of participants remained fully engaged over the three-year project. There is strong evidence that participants remained engaged throughout the project and are likely to continue not only their GIS with Remote Sensing work but also their interactions with one another long after the project ends."

Participants said:

“This is a dream come true for me.”

– Douglas Crebs, Stone Child College (Tribal College in Montana)

"Actually, this has been (hands down) the best learning experience I've had since I left school (1996). The staff were excellent, the materials were relevant and focused, and the participants well-chosen. At the end of every single day, I felt stronger not only about RS, but also about how to TEACH RS. I very much valued the staff's repeated reminders that we are here to improve our student's understanding (and vocational application) of the material, not only our own."

– Anonymous, reported by Evaluator Elaine Craft

This proven impact on both students and professors ensures Landsat's continued support of this program. In 2012 and 2013, LDCM focused largely on communication rather than education. Between January and March 2013, the LDCM E&PO program supported an array of 22 activities to promote the launch of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission on February 11, 2013. These efforts reached more than 17,914,044 people. The largest component of this reach is from social media, an effort supported by USGS, NASA Office of Communication, NASA Social media, US Air Force, and contractors. Twitter accounts for 14,081,632 of the people reached between February 10 and February 14 (according to TweetReach), leaving an estimated 313,494 people reached through other means.

These efforts likely raised awareness of Landsat science. We have some anecdotal evidence of deeper impact. A visualization of a long swath of Landsat data of Earth prompted at least one individual to consider a shift into a NASA career. He wrote:

"I would just like to tell everyone at NASA that no matter how much I have seen produced from technology in the 16 years I have been alive, nothing has inspired me like this photo. In fact this photo has been the only thing to amaze me since I can remember as a product of technology. You all inspire me and I hope that one day I can contribute to the great things that you all do. I do not know of any programming jobs at NASA, but after when I eventually leave my current job as a java programmer at AYCH Electronics near where I live, I will be sure to look into it so that I can contribute to something as amazing as this. You all do an amazing job and deserve the best that humanity has to offer. You put my faith back into the world and that they truly are some people that can put aside differences and come together to create something truly unique and amazing. Thank you all for doing this for humanity."