By the time members of Endeavour’s Red Team had reached lunchtime on this first full day in space for the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, the radar antennas in the payload bay and at the end of a 200-foot mast had mapped about 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) of the Earth’s surface, or the equivalent of about half the area of the United States.
The Red Team – Kevin Kregel, Janet Kavandi and Gerhard Thiele – took over the mapping operations from their Blue Team counterparts shortly after waking up about 7 this morning Central Time. Dom Gorie, Janice Voss and Mamoru Mohri turned in shortly after 2 this afternoon and are to be awakened at 10:14 tonight. For a few minutes this morning – while Japanese astronaut Mohri conducted mapping operations – Gorie and Voss discussed the mission with CNN and NBC’s Today Show.
The crew is working around the clock, in two shifts, to collect data that will produce maps of the Earth with unprecedented accuracy and uniformity. Mapping operations will continue for 10 days, and are proceeding very smoothly. SRTM will cover the area between 60 degrees north and 56 degrees south, roughly the area between St. Petersburg, Russia to the north and the tip of South America to the south. The area to be mapped is home to about 95 percent of the Earth’s population. In all, more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface will be mapped.
The first X-band image – of the area near White Sands, New Mexico – was released this afternoon, and scientists expressed their delight with the quality of the image. X-band images will be posted to the German Space Agency web site at www.dfd.dlr.de/srtm/html/newtoday_en.htm. Both the C-band and X-band radars continue to perform as expected.
“The data we’ve seen so far looks just terrific,” said Dr. Michael Kobrick, project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “The mapping plan is right on schedule.”
Early this afternoon, Kregel fired the shuttle’s thruster jets in a series of pulsed burns to measure the movement of the rigid mast extending over Endeavour’s left wing. Flight controllers reported the tip of the mast moved only 11 inches, just as predicted, despite the fact the antenna’s dampers remained locked in position. The firings were necessary to determine how they affect the mast, prior to upcoming maneuvers to raise Endeavour’s orbit.
Endeavour’s crew also downlinked launch video from an in-cabin camera, providing a unique perspective of yesterday’s flawless launch.
All of Endeavour’s payload and spacecraft systems are continuing to function normally.
The next mission status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Sunday, or as events warrant.
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