Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
and Technology Applications
is the study of Earth's landscapes. These geologic formations
are all around us standing as huge mountain ranges, carved deep
into the Earth to form valleys and stretching flat across thousands
of miles of land to create plains.
cut through continents and oceans and are concealed by them. However,
titanic geological events along these boundaries offer clues to
their locations. Where plates converge, mountains and volcanoes
are often found. Where they pull apart, oceans are born. Wherever
they grind against each other, they are jostled by frequent earthquakes.
data of mountain ranges, which will be available for the first
time with the retrieval of Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data,
will allow geologists to test new models of how mountains form
and determine the relative strength of the forces that uplift
and crumple mountains and the erosive forces which polish and
digital topographic data, available only in the last few years,
have yielded some surprising results. It seems that landslides
in mountainous areas are responsible for far more of the erosion
than previously thought, causing revision of many basic ideas
of mountain development. Even more surprising, models based on
new digital data have shown that erosion of deep valleys into
mountain ranges actually causes the adjacent peaks to rise in
elevation due to the buoyant force of the underlying mantle.
3-D perspective of the remote Karakax Valley in the northern
Tibetan Plateau of western China was created by combining
two spaceborne radar images using a technique known as interferometry.
Visualizations like this are helpful to scientists because
they reveal where the slopes of the valley are cut by erosion,
as well as the accumulations of gravel deposits at the base
of the mountains.|
As with most
disciplines, archaeology has become more interdisciplinary, using
cutting-edge technological tools in parallel with detailed field
work. Increasingly, archaeologists are studying sites and human
activity within their regional context to determine how the sites
relate to each other and how they relate to the changing landscape.
regional view helps answer questions such as why cities and towns
were built in particular locations, and how the patterns of settlement
relate to natural resources in the area. To do this, it is important
to look at why events occurred when they did, and how those events
might have changed over time. Scientists are intensely interested
in examining the interactions of people with the land they inhabited
and exploited over time in an effort to explain the changes that
occurred in both human societies and in the natural environment.
Radar Topography Mission will provide archaeologists with a topographic
view of both ancient sites and the current landscape, which they
can use to help determine the boundaries of original sites. Also,
they will be able to learn how and where these sites fit into
the regional landscape, as well as probable migration routes through
topographic barriers such as mountain ranges.
data also will enable them to compare large-scale ancient settlement
patterns and their distribution around the world. Since many archaeologists
working in remote parts of the world rely on outdated maps or
no maps at all to conduct these studies, the Shuttle Radar Topography
Mission's highly precise 3-D data will provide many with their
first comprehensive tools.
on the interrelationship of living things and their environment.
As civilization and technology advance, people have learned to
modify the environment. Human activity has had enormous repercussions,
changing ecosystems and depleting natural resources. People use
vast amounts of energy and produce massive amounts of waste and
exhaust. It is critical that scientists understand the impact
humanity is having on planet Earth and that better tools be developed
to accurately measure changes in world climate, temperatures,
habitats and species.
data will be collected over all land surfaces that lay between
60 degrees north latitude and 54 degrees south latitude. The map
shows all the regions where data will be collected. SRTM will
not collect data over any of the areas in red.
change is another large-scale event occurring in the atmosphere,
brought about by the increase of so-called "greenhouse gases"
such as carbon dioxide. Like glass in a greenhouse, these gases
admit the Sun's light but tend to reflect the heat that is radiated
from the ground below back down to the ground, trapping heat in
continue to work on computer models of climate change to determine
how much of an increase in greenhouse gases is occurring in Earth's
atmosphere. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data will allow them
to develop more accurate models of the global circulation of the
the world's rainforests is an essential ingredient in global protection
of Earth in the next century. Another avenue of investigation
during the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission will focus on radar-imaging
of fragile habitats, such as Earth's tropical forests, to assess
vegetation types and determine terrain characteristics. Terrain
data that will be collected during the Shuttle Radar Topography
Mission will provide near-global-scale coverage of these ecosystems
at a much higher resolution and allow scientists to study tropical
rainforests in more detail. Combined with data from other remote
sensing satellites, 3-D data of landforms, waterways and other
types of vegetation will contribute to their understanding of
a region's overall health.
nestled near the bases of active volcanoes or on earthquake faults
will be of interest to volcanologists and seismologists as well.
Scientists can use 3-D topographic maps to study the potential
of natural hazards. In addition to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes,
regions prone to severe flooding by major rivers will be of interest.
will be used as a tool for city planners, land management and
resource conservation efforts, which require highly detailed topographic
maps for monitoring land use patterns. Spaceborne radar imaging
systems can clearly detect the variety of landscapes in an area,
as well as the density of urban development. Examples of previous
land management surveys included imaging of major world cities,
such as Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.
Some of the
commercial products that will be possible using Shuttle Radar
Topography Mission data will benefit the transportation industry
and the communications and information technologies markets. In
telecommunications, wireless service providers and operators will
be particularly interested in this digital elevation data. Topographic
data can be used for building better transceiver stations and
identifying the best geographic locations for cellular telephone
conducting geological and mineral exploration, as well as hydrological
and meteorological services, including risk assessment, also will
be interested in the data. Providers of tourist and leisure maps,
satellite data and virtual reality software also will reap the
benefits of these data, which can be integrated into an absolute
geographic grid system that will make all data products uniform
and consistent. In fact, just about any industry that requires
accurate digital elevation data stands to benefit from this mission.
X-SAR image of Honolulu, Hawaii at 21 degrees 34 minutes north
latitude and 157 degrees 88 minutes west longitude.
data may also be a valuable addition to current aircraft navigational
tools to assist pilots in takeoffs, landings and pinpointing their
locations during flight. Ground collision avoidance systems will
become far more accurate with new measurements and topographic
maps of Earth's terrain derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography
Mission. Flight simulators for crew training will have realistic
backgrounds and, by adding information from inflight global positioning
system receivers, will become state-of-the-art reference systems,
giving pilots a set of "virtual eyes" for use in bad
weather or at night.
navigation displays and digital road maps also will benefit from
terrain information provided by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.
Here terrain height is required, combined with accurate data about
the horizon. The newly acquired data will be made available to
commercial users and tailored to their specific needs.
Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) plans to use the digital global
terrain elevation maps for planning, rehearsal, modeling and simulation
for military and civilian uses. Successful completion of the SRTM
data set will provide NIMA with coverage of most of Earth's populated
land areas, with three times better resolution than previously
information about Defense Department applications is available
from NIMA, a partner in the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.