ABC NEWS WORLD NEWS TONIGHT
February 11, 2000, Friday
SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR TAKES OFF ON MAPPING MISSION;
CHARLES GIBSON, anchor:
The space shuttle Endeavour took off today. The first manned launch of the
millennium went off without a hitch. The shuttle is on a mapping mission of
the Earth, which may seem a bit boring, but this mission is a milestone in the
cartography. Man is a bit behind when it comes to mapping the home planet. We
now have better maps of Venus than we do of Earth. Here's ABC's Jack Smith.
JACK SMITH reporting:
Spy planes and satellites have taken snapshots of parts of Earth before, but
nothing like what Endeavour will bring back. It will have not cameras, but two
radars, one in the cargo bay and the other at the end of a giant arm.
In the same way that humans use two eyes to judge depth, Endeavour will use its
two radars for the first time to penetrate clouds and create a stereoscopic 3D
map of most of the globe, images 30 times more precise than any available today
that will be
used first by the US military.
JOHN PIKE (Federation of American Scientists): With all of our airplanes and helicopters
navigating using satellite navigation, they need to know where the valleys are
they can hide in, and they need to know the hills that they need to avoid.
SMITH: But when Endeavour's data is finally analyzed,
it is the civilian applications that may prove most important for they could
save thousands of lives. Landslides: a mouse-click could determine which
slopes are so steep they might give way. Volcanoes: detecting bulging ground
domes could safely warn of eruptions days ahead of time, and floods, too.
EARNEST PAYLOR (NASA): Being able to understand how much rain is occurring in a
certain area and then being able to predict where floodwaters may be--better
predict where floodwaters could--could accumulate.
SMITH: Everything from better ground collision avoidance systems for aircraft
to weather prediction and climate
studies, Endeavour may change our lives in ways, today, we cannot even imagine.
Jack Smith, ABC News, Washington.