House Lawmakers Reject Obama’s Landsat Proposal

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A U.S. House of Representatives appropriations panel that oversees the Interior Department approved a spending bill July 7 that would deny funding the administration request to transfer the Landsat satellite imaging program from NASA to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The House Appropriations interior, environment and related agencies subcommittee’s bill would provide $1.1 billion for USGS in 2012, $30 million below the amount appropriated for this year and $64 million below the administration’s request. Though specific program funding details were not released, the majority of the reductions were made to “climate change and satellite imaging programs,” according to a committee press release.

“The bill also does not provide funding for the President’s costly and flawed proposal to transfer the Landsat satellite imaging program from NASA to the USGS,” the press release said.

For years, the Landsat spacecraft have been funded and developed by NASA and operated by USGS. U.S. President Barack Obama in February sent a budget request to Congress that sought $99 million to establish a National Land Imaging office within USGS. The eighth Landsat satellite, dubbed the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is now under development and on track for a late-2012 launch. Under the proposal, Landsat 9 and future satellites would be built by NASA but funded and operated by USGS, similar to how NASA builds operational weather satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The subcommittee did not reveal how much if any funding it would provide USGS in 2012 to continue operating its two satellites on orbit, Landsat 5 and Landsat 7.