The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission’s mapping operation continues to run smoothly, with about 17.7 million square miles of the Earth’s surface having been mapped by 7 p.m. Central time. Scientists also reported that 38 percent of landmasses had been mapped thus far in the flight. Despite a problem with a small nitrogen thruster on the end of the 200-foot-long mast, both the C-band and X-band radars continue to perform as expected, and the thruster problem has had no impact on mapping operations.
“We are starting to see the first ‘quick look’ results from the X-band and C-band antennas and the details are fantastic,” said Dr. Michael Kobrick, SRTM project scientist. “Even in this lower resolution, quick-look results, we can see many topographic features that were completely invisible in the best maps we have today.”
Two members of the Blue Team – Dom Gorie and Mamoru Mohri – spent a few minutes early this morning talking to Dr. Bob Ballard, discoverer of the RMS Titanic and founder of the JASON Foundation, an educational program designed to spark students’ interest in science and technology. They also took questions from the Fox News Network.
Endeavour’s crew and flight controllers continue troubleshooting a problem with a small nitrogen thruster mounted at the tip of the radar’s outboard antenna. Although gaseous nitrogen propellant is flowing, little or no thrust is being produced. Crew members cycled the valve open and closed in an attempt to pinpoint the problem. Controllers plan to leave the valve closed for several hours to attempt to quantify the rate of propellant usage. The thruster was designed to keep the mast from “righting” itself in response to Earth’s gravity and remove the need for additional orbiter thruster firings to keep the antenna in its data-taking position. Without the thruster on the antenna, crew members have to fire the orbiter’s thrusters more than expected.
As the Blue Team wrapped up its third day in space, the Red Team of Kevin Kregel, Janet Kavandi and Gerhard Thiele took over mapping operations shortly after their wake-up call this morning. Gorie, Mohri and Janice Voss turned in shortly after 2 p.m., with a wake-up call set for 10:14 tonight to begin their fourth day of mapping activities.
Controllers also did some troubleshooting on one of the on-board cameras after Gorie reported the system that records the time at which images are taken was not working. Controllers suspect that the batteries were weakened due to the delay in launching Endeavour. The weak batteries should have no impact on the use of the camera to support NASA’s Earth observation program.
After yesterday’s repositioning of a camera bracket on the flight deck, EarthKAM operations continue nominally. As of late this afternoon, some 355 images had been downlinked from the EarthKAM. This NASA program allows students to use interactive Web pages to target and select images to be photographed from a camera onboard the shuttle. All of Endeavour’s spacecraft systems are continuing to function normally as it circles the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 150 miles. The next mission status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Monday, or as events warrant.
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