The Panama Canal from Space – A collection of satellite images before and after the Expansion Project

In commemoration of completion of the Panama Canal Expansion Project, and in tribute to the upcoming official opening on June 26, we present a series of before and after satellite photos highlighting the Expansion Project and showcasing this engineering marvel.

Work on the Panama Canal Expansion took nearly 9 years to complete, starting in September 2007, at a cost of US$5.2 billion. By adding a third set of locks on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the canal, dredging the existing navigation channel, adding a new approach channel on the Caribbean side and a new 6.1 km access channel on the Pacific side, and raising the Gatun Lake maximum operating level, the Expansion doubles the capacity of the Canal and significantly increases the size of vessels that can transit the Canal.

Below we present before and after satellite images of the newly expanded Canal, provide an overview of the Expansion Project, show a rare nearly-cloudless image from Landsat-5, and even include one of the earliest Landsat images of the Panama Canal acquired by Landsat-1 on March 18, 1973.

Panama Canal Expansion - Pacific

Satellite views of the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal, before (left; Landsat-7 on November 20, 2002) and after (right; Landsat-8 on June 11, 2016) the Expansion Project. Note the addition of the third set of locks, the three sets of water reutilization basins immediately adjacent to the new locks, and the new access channel that now bypasses Miraflores Lake.


Panama Canal Expansion - Caribbean

Satellite views of the Caribbean Sea entrance to the Panama Canal, before (left; Landsat-7 on May 28, 2002) and after (right; Landsat-8 on February 20, 2016) the Expansion Project. Note the addition of the third set of locks, the three sets of water reutilization basins immediately adjacent to the new locks, and the new approach channel.


Overview - Panama Canal Expansion Project

An overview of the Panama Canal Expansion Project (from:


Panama Canal - Landsat5 Cloud Free

This is a rare nearly-cloudless glimpse of the entire Panama Canal acquired by Landsat-5 on March 27, 2000.


Panama Canal - Landsat1

For the remote sensing history aficionados, this is the earliest Landsat image of the Panama Canal listed in the USGS archives, from Landsat-1 on March 18, 1973, over 40 years ago.

Astronaut Photography – Your access to stunning views from space

Astronauts have busy schedules in space – system operations, maintenance, repairs, science experiments – but did you know they also acquire hundreds of photos during each mission?

Reid Wiseman , Astronaut Photography

From stunning views of Earth’s natural features to glimpses of your favorite city at night, and from pure artistry to applied science, these photos offer a remarkable perspective of our planet’s surface as well as a valuable historical record of how and where our planet is changing.

There are now two great resources available for viewing this photography:

Both websites provide access to thousands of photos, are free to use, allow users to search photos or browse by category, and even provide options to download images for your own use (but be sure to read through the conditions of use on both websites).

We’ve spent countless hours browsing through these stunning image collections, and encourage you to take a look for yourself.

We hope you enjoy!

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

“The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth hosts the best and most complete online collection of astronaut photographs of the Earth from 1961 through the present. This service is provided by the International Space Station program and the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate.” –

Windows on Earth

“Windows on Earth is an educational project that features photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.  Astronauts take hundreds of photos each day, for science research, education and public outreach.  The photos are often dramatic, and help us all appreciate home planet Earth. The site is operated by TERC, an educational non-profit, in collaboration with the Association of Space Explorers (the professional association of flown astronauts and cosmonauts), the Virtual High School, and CASIS (Center for Advancement of Science in Space).” –

Windows on Earth featured

The “White Stork” Makes a CubeSat Delivery – ISS receives four new micro-satellites


HTV-4 being docked with the ISS using Canadarm2 (courtesy: NASA)

Earlier this month on August 3, 2013 the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4) was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The HTV, nicknamed “Kounotori” (White Stork), is an unpiloted spacecraft used to resupply the International Space Station.

In addition to supplies and other research cargo, the recent HTV-4 mission included four new CubeSats:

  • Pico Dragon. This is a 1U CubeSat developed by the Vietnam National Satellite Center. Its mission is to acquire images of the Earth, collect space environment data, and test satellite communication systems.
  • Ardusat-1 and Ardusat-X. These are 1U CubeSats created by NanoSatisfi, with development partially funded through a crowdfunding campaign on KickStarter. The ArduSat satellites provide open-source Arduino platforms for users to control onboard instruments and perform their own space-based experiments.
  • TechEdSat-3. This is a 3U CubeSat collaboratively built by San Jose State University and the University of Idaho with guidance from NASA Ames Research Center. This satellite is being used to test exo-brake technology for passive de-orbiting of satellites and other payloads.

CubeSats offer a low-cost option for deploying and testing new space technologies and for encouraging research in space science. Given their small size – a 1U CubeSat is a 10cm cube – the satellites can be readily deployed as opportunistic payloads on larger missions. They can also be easily designed to burn up upon re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, thus not contributing to the growing problem of space junk.

Using a procedure first tested last year, the CubeSats delivered by HTV-4 are first uploaded inside the ISS and later released from the Japanese Experiment Module via an airlock and robotic arm using the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer. This allows the CubeSats to be deployed directly from the ISS instead of using traditional launch vehicles, i.e., rockets.

As the deployment of micro-satellites becomes more and more cost-efficient and versatile, it’s no wonder we’re seeing an increasing prevalence of CubeSats. So think small and dream big.

Crowdfunding in Space – Democratizing support for satellite and space inspired projects

ARKYDEver come up with the next great idea in remote sensing, space technology or geospatial inspired art? Interested in alternative sources to fund your idea? Check out these innovators who have turned to crowdfunding to support their projects:

  • ARKYD: A Space Telescope for Everyone has raised $1,234,748 on Kickstarter (and still going this month) to develop and launch a space telescope that can be controlled by users to acquire images of deep space.
  • SkyCube: The First Satellite Launched by You! raised $116,890 on Kickstarter to build a small nano-satellite that will take images of the Earth and broadcast simple messages from space. SkyCube is scheduled for launch in November 2013 on a SpaceX launch to the International Space Station.
  • ArduSat – Your Adruino Experiment in Space raised $106,300 on Kickstarter for completing system integration tasks on an open platform CubeSat that can be used by the public to “run their own space-based applications” and experiments.
  • Space Elevator Science – Climb to the Sky – A Tethered Tower raised $110,353 on Kickstarter to build a platform of tethered high-altitude balloons and a robot that can climb two kilometers up to those balloons.
  • Uwingu – A New Way to Fund Space Exploration, Research and Education raised $79,896 on Indiegogo to fund start-up costs for creating The Uwingu Fund, which will “provide grants to those that propose meritorious projects in space exploration, space research or space education.”
  • KickSat – Your personal spacecraft in space! Raised $74,586 on Kickstarter to build a fleet of Sprite Spacecraft, tiny satellites about the size of a few postage stamps, and a larger CubeSat that will be used to deploy the Sprites once in orbit.
  • Plasma Jet Electric Thrusters for Spacecraft raised $72,871 on Kickstarter to develop a prototype plasma jet thruster for interplanetary transportation.
  • Hermes Spacecraft raised $20,843 on Kickstarter to develop and test rocket thrusters for a reusable suborbital spacecraft.
  • Safe is Not An Option: Our Futile Obsession in Spaceflight raised $5,341 on Kickstarter to publish a book “on our irrational approach to safety in human spaceflight.”
  • Painting for Satellites raised $3,525 on Kickstarter to paint rooftops as large-scale artwork to be viewed from orbiting satellites.
  • Let’s launch a Balloon into Space raised $3,384 on Gofundme for a sixth grade class to launch a weather balloon into near space.
  • Be a Producer on Timothy Feathergrass: The Movie! raised $2,794 on Kickstarter to support film festival entry fees for a movie about a “young man who builds a satellite but can’t afford to launch it into space.”
  • There are also a number of other projects just getting started.

Just think of the possibilities for your next great idea.

For more information: Kickstarter; Indiegogo; Gofundme