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Saturday, 4 August, 2001, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Nasa begins global 3D map release
Andes mountains, Argentina, Nasa/JPL/Nima
The shuttle captured this image of the Andes
Image: Nasa/JPL/Nima

The American space agency (Nasa) has released the first section of the most accurate 3D map of the world yet produced. It was created with data from a space shuttle mission.

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
Shuttle Endeavour flew 11-day mission in February 2000
Trailed 60-metre boom with radar sensors at either end
Made one trillion measurements of Earth's surface
"The map is going to be 100 times better than any other global map that we have," Shuttle Radar Topography Mission deputy project scientist Tom Farr said.

The shuttle flew an 11-day mission in February 2000, during which it trailed a 60-metre (197-foot) radar surveying boom.

It collected more data on the shape of the Earth's surface than was collected over the previous 30 years by other means.

International co-operation

The data collected ran into several terabytes, comprising a trillion measurements of the Earth's surface.

The technology was incredible

Dan Goldin
Nasa administrator
The project was a collaboration between the US National Imagery and Mapping Agency (Nima), Nasa, and the German and Italian space agencies.

Nima, part of the US Department of Defense, financed much of the mission and will use the data to improve flight simulators and targeting systems.

The first chunk of the data to be made public covers a 20,500-square-kilometre (8,000-square-mile) swathe of the US state of Colorado.

Nima's project manager, Thomas Hennig, said that the map could be used for settling border disputes.

"They can see immediately if we move it, it does this for me, and it does that for you," he said.

And Nasa said that the map would be useful for ecologists, geologists, city planners and pilots.

"Incredible technology"

Many inaccessible parts of the world have never been mapped accurately.

Radar was used to make the map because it can penetrate darkness and cloud cover.

The mission mapped around 80% of the Earth's surface in total.

Nasa adminstrator Dan Goldin said at the time: "I thought this mission was one of the most challenging, difficult missions we ever undertook.

"The technology was incredible," he said.

Spanish Peaks Nasa/JPL
In 3D: Looking west along the Cucharas River Canyon in Colorado toward the 4,000-metre-high Spanish Peaks

See also:

15 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Endeavour maps half the globe
28 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Endeavour set to map Earth
13 Feb 98 | Sci/Tech
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