With a last-minute budget reprieve from the Bush administration, Landsats 4 and 5, the sole public U.S. source of detailed satellite images of Earth, have another six months of life. The impending shutoff of the satellites on March 31 without an infusion of funds has focused attention on the public—private partnership that manages the Landsat program.
EOSAT , Inc., the private corporation that operates Landsats 4 and 5, needs $9.4 million to maintain the satellites until the end of the fiscal year in October. As it has in previous years, t h e Reagan administration included no money in its FY 1989 budget to keep the spacecraft working, a n d the Bush administration has not amended that policy. Congress has restored operating funds in the past, but this time it was the National Space Council, headed by Vice President Dan Quayle, that released a statement saying that federal agencies that are many of the biggest customers for remote sensing data from the satellites will pay at least some of the costs. Under the plan the rest would be supplied by EOSAT, which markets Landsat data.