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Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) Film Only


     MSS Film Only color composite of the
     Shatt al Arab River Delta in Iran (1989).

The Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS), a sensor carried on Landsats 1 through 5, acquired four spectral bands of radiant energy from the earth’s surface. The wavelength range for the MSS sensor is from the visible through the near-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The scenes are approximately 170 km by 185 km at a resolution of 79 meters.

Band Designation
Landsat 1-3 Landsat 4-5 Wavelength
Band 4 Band 1 0.5 to 0.6 µm
Band 5 Band 2 0.6 to 0.7 µm
Band 6 Band 3 0.7 to 0.8 µm
Band 7 Band 4 0.8 to 1.1 µm

Original MSS scenes from 1972 through 1992 were recorded on high density magnetic tape, corrected for atmospheric scattering, and sent to a film recorder where the photographic images were created. MSS scenes that were collected between 1972 and 1979 were recorded to film by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center using electron beam recorders to generate 70 mm film sources. From 1979 to 1992 Landsat data were processed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Digital Processing System (EDIPS) which used laser beam film recorders to create 9-inch black-and-white positive transparencies. The USGS EROS archive includes approximately 335,500 scenes on 70 mm film and 334,500 scenes on 9-inch film.

The MSS Film Only collection includes 43,200 scenes where the only remaining source is the black-and-white film images. Since all Landsat data are of historical value for global change research, these images will be scanned on high performance photogrammetric film scanners making the data digitally accessible to the scientific community. Additional scenes will be added to the MSS Film Only collection if their digital sources are found to be unreadable.

MSS Film Only scenes from Landsats 1 through 3 are referenced to Landsat Worldwide Reference System-1 and scenes from Landsats 4 and 5 are referenced to Landsat Worldwide Reference System-2.

Digital Products

Two digital download options are available through EarthExplorer at no cost to the user for the MSS Film Only scenes that have already been scanned.

  • A four band Landsat MSS scene data file consists of a zip file containing four co-registered spectral bands. The file size for each black-and-white scan is approximately 100 MB. The files are stored in a TIFF format.
  • A full resolution color composite of a Landsat MSS Film Only scene is a Red, Green, Blue (Bands 7, 6, 5 for Landsats 1-3 and bands 4, 3, 2 for Landsats 4-5) image created from the black-and-white scans. The file size for a MSS color composite image is approximately 10 MB. The file is stored in a JPEG format.

If the MSS Film Only scenes have not been already scanned, an order can be placed to scan the film at $30.00 per scene. A $5.00 handling fee is charged for all orders requiring payment.

Coverage Maps

Coverage Maps indicating the availability of MSS Film Only products are available for download.

Additional Informaiton:

Data Use and Citation Policies

For information on how to cite USGS data plus guidance on usage restrictions,
please see our Data Citations and Use page at

Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and
does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Contact Information for User Assistance

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
47914 252nd Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57198-0001

Phone Number: 605-594-6151
Toll Free: 800-252-4547
Fax: 605-594-6589


Business Hours: Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Central Time