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Most Historically Significant Images of Earth': Satellite Images Show 40 Years of Natural and Man-Made Change

"...help us understand the big picture of Earth and its changes from space."

Changes in the Mississippi River Delta from 1973, 1989 and 2003. (Image: NASA/USGS)

NASA's Landsat program on Monday celebrated its satellites providing the longest ever continuous view of Earth. For 40 years, the satellites have been recording from space a view of what's going on with Earth, capturing natural land changes as well as a slew of human activity including population changes and farming.

According to NASA, the program provides "direct societal benefits" as it pertains to "human and environmental health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture." Wired describes the program's images as the "most historically significant images of Earth from space."

“Landsat has given us a critical perspective on our planet over the long term and will continue to help us understand the big picture of Earth and its changes from space,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “With this view we are better prepared to take action on the ground and be better stewards of our home.”

Watch this CBS Local report out of Baltimore on the anniversary:

Although NASA points out in its announcement of the satellite program's success that it is about more than just pictures of Earth -- "they contain many layers of data" -- the pictures alone are certainly stunning. Here are a few showing the comparisons over the years:

According to NASA, six of the seven Landsat satellites have been launched since 1972. The seventh is expected to be sent up in February 2013.

“The first 40 years of the Landsat program have delivered the most consistent and reliable record of Earth's changing landscape,” Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence with the even greater capacity and enhanced technologies of LDCM.”

See more images from the Landsat 40th anniversary here.

This story has been updated from its original posting to correct the date. 

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