NASA Goes 'Down Under' for Shuttle Mapping Mission Finale

January 7, 2005
PIA06661

Culminating more than four years of processing data, NASA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) have completed Earth's most extensive global topographic map.
The data, extensive enough to fill the U.S. Library of Congress, was gathered during the Space Shuttle Endeavour Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) in February 2000.
The digital elevation maps encompass 80 percent of Earth's landmass. They reveal for the first time large, detailed swaths of Earth's topography previously obscured by persistent cloudiness. The data will benefit scientists, engineers, government agencies and the public with an ever-growing array of uses.

Image: The Alpine fault runs parallel to, and just inland of, much of the west coast of New Zealand's South Island. This view was created from the near-global digital elevation model produced by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and is almost 500 kilometers (just over 300 miles) wide. Northwest is toward the top. The fault is extremely distinct in the topographic pattern, nearly slicing this scene in half lengthwise. (NASA)

"This is among the most significant science missions the Shuttle has ever performed, and it's probably the most significant mapping mission of any single type ever," said Dr. Michael Kobrick, mission project scientist of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The final data release covers Australia and New Zealand in unprecedented uniform detail. It also covers more than 1,000 islands comprising much of Polynesia and Melanesia in the South Pacific, as well as islands in the South Indian and Atlantic oceans.

"Many of these islands have never had their topography mapped," Kobrick said. "Their low topography makes them vulnerable to tidal effects, storm surges and long-term sea level rise. Knowing exactly where rising waters will go is vital to mitigating the effects of future disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami," he said.

SRTM data are being used for applications ranging from land use planning to "virtual" Earth exploration. "Future missions using similar technology could monitor changes in Earth's topography over time, and even map the topography of other planets," said Dr. John LaBrecque, manager of NASA's Solid Earth and Natural Hazards Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington.

The SRTM radar system mapped Earth from 56 degrees south to 60 degrees north of the equator. The resolution of the publicly available data is three arc-seconds (1/1,200th of a degree of latitude and longitude, about 295 feet, at Earth's equator). The mission is collaboration among NASA, NGA, the German and Italian space agencies. SRTM's role in space history was honored with a display of the mission's canister and mast antenna at the Smithsonian Institution's Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Va.

Source: NASA

Explore further: NASA climate modeling suggests Venus may have been habitable

Related Stories

NASA climate modeling suggests Venus may have been habitable

August 11, 2016

Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to 2 billion years of its early history, according to computer modeling of the planet's ancient climate by scientists at NASA's Goddard ...

The case of the missing craters

July 26, 2016

When NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrived to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres in March 2015, mission scientists expected to find a heavily cratered body generally resembling the protoplanet Vesta, Dawn's previous port of call.

Recommended for you

Seals help plug Antarctic water mystery

August 24, 2016

Elephant seals have helped scientists to demonstrate that fresh water from Antarctic's melting ice shelves slows the processes responsible for the formation of deep-water ocean currents that regulate global temperatures.

LiH mediates low-temperature ammonia synthesis

August 24, 2016

Nearly half of the world's population is fed by industrial N2 fixation, i. e., the Harbor-Bosch process. Although exergonic in nature, NH3 synthesis from N2 and H2 catalyzed by the fused Fe has to be conducted at elevated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.