NASA News: NASA, Japan Release Improved Topographic Map Of Earth

WASHINGTON -- NASA and Japan released a significantly improved version
of the most complete digital topographic map of Earth on Monday,
produced with detailed measurements from NASA's Terra spacecraft.

The map, known as a global digital elevation model, was created from
images collected by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission
and Reflection Radiometer, or ASTER, instrument aboard Terra.
So-called stereo-pair images are produced by merging two slightly
offset two-dimensional images to create the three-dimensional effect
of depth. The first version of the map was released by NASA and
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in June 2009.

"The ASTER global digital elevation model was already the most
complete, consistent global topographic map in the world," said Woody
Turner, ASTER program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"With these enhancements, its resolution is in many respects
comparable to the U.S. data from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography
Mission (SRTM), while covering more of the globe."

The improved version of the map adds 260,000 additional stereo-pair
images to improve coverage. It features improved spatial resolution,
increased horizontal and vertical accuracy, more realistic coverage
over water bodies and the ability to identify lakes as small as 0.6
miles (1 kilometer) in diameter. The map is available online to users
everywhere at no cost.

"This updated version of the ASTER global digital elevation model
provides civilian users with the highest-resolution global topography
data available," said Mike Abrams, ASTER science team leader at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "These data can
be used for a broad range of applications, from planning highways and
protecting lands with cultural or environmental significance, to
searching for natural resources."

The ASTER data cover 99 percent of Earth's landmass and span from 83
degrees north latitude to 83 degrees south. Each elevation
measurement point in the data is 98 feet (30 meters) apart.

NASA and METI are jointly contributing the data for the ASTER
topographic map to the Group on Earth Observations, an international
partnership headquartered at the World Meteorological Organization in
Geneva, Switzerland, for use in its Global Earth Observation System
of Systems. This "system of systems" is a collaborative,
international effort to share and integrate Earth observation data
from many different instruments and systems to help monitor and
forecast global environmental changes.

ASTER is one of five instruments launched on Terra in 1999. ASTER
acquires images from visible to thermal infrared wavelengths, with
spatial resolutions ranging from about 50 to 300 feet (15 to 90
meters). A joint science team from the United States and Japan
validates and calibrates the instrument and data products. The U.S.
science team is located at JPL.

NASA, METI, Japan's Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center
(ERSDAC), and the U.S. Geological Survey validated the data, with
support from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and
other collaborators. The data are distributed by NASA's Land
Processes Distributed Active Archive Center at the U.S. Geological
Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux
Falls, S.D., and by ERSDAC in Tokyo.

Users of the new version of the ASTER data products are advised that
while improved, the data still contain anomalies and artifacts that
will affect its usefulness for certain applications.

Data users can download the ASTER global digital elevation model at:




For more information about NASA's Terra mission, visit:



NASA Deputy Administrator To Speak About Commercial Space Economy

WASHINGTON -- NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will provide
keynote remarks at the International Symposium for Personal and
Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) at 8:30 a.m. MDT on Thursday, Oct. 20.
Media representatives are invited to attend the conference and
participate in a media availability with Garver following her remarks.

The ISPCS will take place Oct. 18-21 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch
Heritage Museum, located at 4100 Dripping Springs Road in Las Cruces,
N.M. The conference's theme is "Business at the Speed of Innovation."
Garver's remarks will focus on NASA's vision for future exploration
and a strong commercial space capability that will create jobs and
strengthen the U.S. economy.

For media credentialing information, contact Longbottom Communications at:


For more information about the ISPCS Conference, visit:



Three New Flight Directors Chosen To Lead NASA's Mission Control

HOUSTON -- NASA has selected three new flight directors to manage
International Space Station operations. Judd Frieling, Tomas
Gonzalez-Torres and Greg Whitney will join a select group of human
spaceflight leaders in the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control
Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA's flight directors lead a team of flight controllers, support
personnel and engineering experts from around the world. They also
are involved in cargo and crew vehicle integration with the station
and developing plans for future exploration missions.

"As we move into a new era of spaceflight, these flight directors will
help us transition the knowledge and experience from the existing
human spaceflight programs into the next period of exploration and
space station operations," said John McCullough, chief of the Flight
Director Office at Johnson. "This includes development of new
technologies and techniques for spaceflight and development and
execution of our future missions in the years to come."

After the new flight directors have completed their training and
certification, NASA will have 25 active flight directors supporting
the space station, exploration, commercial spaceflights and new
technology demonstration initiatives. Prior to the selection of
Frieling, Gonzalez-Torres and Whitney, only 80 people had served as
NASA flight directors in the almost 50 years of human spaceflight.

Judd Frieling was born in Austin, Texas, but considers Pflugerville,
Texas, his hometown. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in
aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1996. He began
a diverse flight control career in 1997 as an Onboard Data Interfaces
and Network (ODIN) officer, serving as lead for the STS-97 station
assembly mission, and worked to resolve multiple computer failures
during the STS-100 mission. He was instrumental in developing new
operations processes and procedures, allowing the Mission Control
Center to operate with significantly smaller staffs during quiet
periods aboard the station. In 2004, Frieling transitioned to space
shuttle flight control as a Data Processing Systems (DPS) officer,
where he supported 20 shuttle flights. He served as lead DPS officer
for STS-118 and STS-130.

Tomas Gonzalez-Torres was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. He earned
a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering from Iowa State
University in 1998. A veteran spacewalk flight controller,
Gonzalez-Torres has been the group lead for the Extravehicular
Activities (EVA) Systems Group for the past three years, and recently
has been acting chief of the EVA Operations Branch. He joined NASA in
1994 and worked as a spacewalk task and systems instructor.
Gonzalez-Torres became an EVA officer in 2005, working 17 shuttle
flights, including lead for the STS-121 assembly mission that
featured tests of shuttle heat shield inspection and repair
techniques. He served as the lead spacewalk officer for the final
Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-125, and four space
station expedition spacewalks.

Greg Whitney was born in Albany, N.Y., but considers Rye, N.H., his
hometown. He earned a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering
from the University of Texas in 2002. He joined NASA in 2002 and
supported space station activities as an Operations Planner. Whitney
also supported space shuttle missions as a Flight Activities Officer
(FAO), developing plans to optimize crew operations. This resume
includes 14 space station expeditions and 12 space shuttle missions,
and he served as the lead FAO for the last shuttle flight, STS-135,
earlier this year. He also spent time as an acting group lead for
spaceflight planning activities.

Photos of the new flight directors are available online at:


For information about the International Space Station, visit:



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