Since NASA launched the first Landsat satellite way back in 1972, a photo documentation program has been in regular operation. Landsat began as Project EROS (Earth Resources Observation Satellites), which was meant to keep an eye on our planet that seemed overlooked during the 60s when the obsession with outer space was peaking. The project was meant to observe the changing earth landscape over time. Keep that kind of operation up for many decades and you end up with literally millions of pictures.
In 2008 the U.S. government decided that those pictures, which had previously been available for sale to anyone, should be free. This development grabbed the attention of the people at Google. At that time Google Maps and Google Earth were viral with Web users, however, hardcore scientists were looking for more. That is where the comprehensive Landsat library of images changes things. At this point, in 2009 Google met with a lead scientist of the USGS, Tom Loveland. The USGS is home to the vast Landsat archives.
The agenda was about turning the massive amount of images into maps and mini-movies for the use of various governments as well as researchers around the globe. Ultimately, the project involved the convergence of 4 institutions, Google partnering with TIME, NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) to give a unique, historical perspective on geological changes taking place on earth.
Landsat images of the planet were painstakingly combined together to provide detailed changes of Mother Earth over the last quarter-of-a-century. The Time-hosted time-lapse portal is up and open to public IP now, with a front-page showcasing some pre-chosen regions, including Las Vegas, Dubai, Columbia Glacier and the Amazon.
Time and Google have pulled off a terrific multi-decade animated time lapse of Earth. It is a very worthy project that deserves every possible accolade. It is also a grim reminder that we have done so much to harm the planet already, and that we must do all we can to mitigate the effects that have been unleashed by our disregard of her wellbeing.