Mission managers late this afternoon announced a nine-hour extension to the data-taking portion of the mission. That means that mapping of the Earth now will continue until about 6 a.m. Monday. Astronaut Chris Hadfield in Mission Control relayed the good news shortly before 4 p.m. to Commander Kevin Kregel and the rest of Endeavour’s crew. “That’s super news,” Kregel replied. “I’m sure the folks at the Jet Propulsion Lab and NIMA are really ecstatic about that.”
As of noon today, 88 percent, or more than 42 million square miles of the target area had been mapped once. More than 57 percent of the target area – over 27 million square miles – has been mapped with two or more passes. Endeavour images 40,000 square miles of land every minute. At that rate, it can image an area the size of Rhode Island in just 2 seconds.
Scientists today released radar images of the San Andreas Fault and the Rose Bowl area in southern California, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, and the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Scientists predict that the level of detail in maps resulting from data collected during the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission will help scientists better understand hazards such as wildfires, lava flows, tsunamis and floods.
Science operations continued smoothly through the mission’s eighth day, with all radar and support hardware continuing to work better than hoped. “Everything is perfect. It’s incredible,” observed Marian Werner, X-SAR project manager for the German Aerospace Agency, which provided the X-band radar system used by SRTM.
Earlier today, Endeavour’s six astronauts gathered together for their traditional news conference, answering questions from U.S. and Japanese reporters. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and German Research Minister Edelgard Buhlmann also congratulated the crew on the success of the mission and the potential benefits of the resulting high-resolution maps.
EarthKam continues its outstanding performance. It has nearly equaled the number of images produced during its first four flights combined, with more than 1,700 images produced thus far.
Endeavour continues to perform smoothly and provide a solid platform for the most accurate and unified topographical mapping of the Earth ever produced. The next status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Saturday, or as mission events warrant.
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