With growing confidence that fuel-saving measures onboard Endeavour will permit the radar mapping mission to run its full duration, flight controllers and crew members today marked the mission’s mid-way point. “We’re almost there,” stated Milt Heflin, NASA’s Deputy Chief Flight Director.
Science operations progressed flawlessly through the halfway point of the 11-day mission. “You have six smiling faces up here,” remarked Gerhard Thiele after being told how well the mapping was going. As of noon today, more than 73 percent, or 35 million square miles, of the target area has been mapped once. That exceeds the land area of the Americas, Africa and Australia combined. More than 38 percent of the target area – 18 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.
New radar images of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, and of northwestern Mongolia were released today. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission images hold the promise of helping scientists and planners better understand such potential problems as river flooding and soil erosion.
While continuing to troubleshoot the balky small thruster on the tip of Endeavour’s 200-foot mast, flight controllers are implementing steps to conserve the propellant used by the orbiter’s reaction control system jets to maintain the mast’s attitude. With pilot Dom Gorie cycling the cold gas line, Janice Voss reported seeing a small, white object moving out of Endeavour’s payload bay. The object is suspected to be a small piece of ice. The remaining Blue Team member, Mamoru Mohri, took some time out of his day to talk with students in his native country of Japan. Later today, Thiele answered questions from reporters at the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.
Meanwhile, EarthKam has processed 1,033 images – more than from any other shuttle mission. Using a camera mounted in Endeavour’s overhead window, school students are taking pictures of the Earth. On four previous flights, EarthKam took about 2,000 photos.
Endeavour continues to provide an excellent 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. Thursday, or as mission events warrant.
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