Masses of data that will result in topographical maps far better than any now available continue to flow into high-rate recorders as Endeavour enters the second half of its Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Efforts to conserve propellant and power continue to pay off, with officials gaining more confidence that the entire nine days, nine hours of mapping operations will be completed.
By early Thursday more that 77 percent or 36.4 million square miles of the target area has been mapped once. That is about equal to Asia, the Americas and Australia combined, or about twice the area of the surface of the moon. More than 20.24 million square miles has been mapped with two or more passes. Endeavour collects data on 40,000 square miles every minute it is over land. At that rate, SRTM could map an area the size of Florida in 90 seconds.
Propellant for the shuttle’s reaction control system jets became an issue after failure of a small cold-gas jet on the end of the almost 200-foot mast extending from Endeavour’s payload bay. The small jet was designed to help control the attitude of the mast. Without the jet, the orbiter’s reaction control system jets are doing the job. Their increased propellant consumption has required a number of fuel conservation steps on the orbiter to enable a complete mapping mission.
Mapping operations are not affected, and scientists continue to express delight at the quality of even the rough data, sent down to confirm SRTM function. The radar gathers data at a rate about four times as fast as the orbiter can send it down. It is being collected on about 270 high-density tapes (which hold as much information as 13,500 CDs). But even the early, rough data show scientists features not seen on today’s best maps.
Endeavour’s Blue Team, Pilot Dom Gorie and mission specialists Janice Voss and Mamoru Mohri, is on duty until about noon Central Standard Time. Mohri is speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Hirofumi Nakasone, at 6:22 a.m. The Red Team, Commander Kevin Kregel and Mission specialists Janet Kavandi and Gerhard Thiele, is sleeping. Its wakeup call is scheduled for 10:14 a.m.
EarthKAM continued its record-breaking performance. A secondary payload mounted in an upper window on Endeavour’s flight deck, EarthKAM is used by middle school students to take digital photos of the Earth’s surface. It has sent down a mission record of more than 1,250 photos. On four previous flights, EarthKAM took a total of about 2,000 photos.
The next status report will be issued at 6 p.m. Thursday, or as mission events warrant.
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