The VEGETATION instrument, partly developed with funding from the EU's Environment and Climate programme, has provided unique images of the earth's vegetation since the week following its launch on board the SPOT 4 satellite on 24 March 1998. The first images from SPOT 4 were acquired at the receiving station in France one week after the launch. In the following days further images were received by a station in Sweden, confirming the perfect functioning of the entire system. The main mission of the VEGETATION sensor is to continuously observe and monitor the whole continental biosphere and crops, on both regional and global scales. The images will prove invaluable to various organizations, including governments, non-governmental organizations and the scientific community, who are interested in issues such as the evolution of world vegetation cover, the forecast of agricultural production, deforestation, and global change.