Optimism in orbit and in Mission Control that Endeavour will have enough propellant and power to complete its planned mapping of more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface continues to increase. Mission Control also told the astronauts that the EarthKAM aboard Endeavour has successfully transmitted its 1,000th image for middle school students.
Scientists reported that 67.2 percent of the target area – 32 million square miles – had been mapped by early Wednesday. That is equal to the area of the Americas, Africa and Australia combined. It is about 56 percent of all the Earth’s land surface.
More than 32.5 percent of the target area had been mapped with two passes. That 15.5 million square miles is roughly equal to the combined areas of Africa and Australia. New radar images of Brazil, South Africa and the South Island of New Zealand were released Tuesday afternoon by enthusiastic scientists who said the picture of the Earth obtained by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission will be used for decades to come.
EarthKAM, mounted in the overhead starboard window of Endeavour’s aft flight deck, lets middle school students take pictures of the Earth. They use interactive web pages to select photos. On four previous flights, EarthKAM took more than 2,000 photos.
The astronauts completed the fourth trim burn, adjusting the orbiter’s altitude using the “flycast maneuver.” The carefully choreographed and timed maneuver is designed to adjust Endeavour’s orbit while imparting minimal stress to the 200-foot mast protruding from the cargo bay.
Mapping operations continued flawlessly early Wednesday. Endeavour was gathering data on 40,000 square miles of land a minute while it was over land areas.
Flight controllers continue to troubleshoot a problem with a small nitrogen thruster on the end of the 200-foot-long mast. They have implemented a number of steps to conserve the propellant used by Endeavour’s reaction control system jets, which are being used to maintain the attitude of the mast in the absence of the jet. Flight controllers and crewmembers are optimistic that they will have enough propellant and power to complete their planned nine-day, nine-hour mapping operations.
Blue Team members, Pilot Dom Gorie and Mission Specialists Janice Voss and Mamoru Mohri, are on duty. Earlier in his shift, Mohri took time out to talk with Japanese students in Tokyo and Kagoshima. Members of the Red Team, Commander Kevin Kregel and Mission Specialists Janet Kavandi and Gerhard Thiele, were in their sleep period. They are scheduled to be awakened at 10:14 a.m.
Endeavour’s systems are functioning normally as it continues to gather data for unprecedentedly accurate and unified topographical maps of the Earth. The next status report will be issued at 6 p.m. Wednesday, or as mission events warrant.
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