An international cadre of astronauts will support JPL's next Earth radar-mapping mission when NASA launches Space Shuttle Endeavour in September 1999.

The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) evolved from the Space Radar Laboratory missions that flew on two Space Shuttle flights in 1994. The effort is a partnership between NASA and the Department of Defense's National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). In addition, the German and Italian space agencies are contributing an experimental high-resolution imaging radar system.

A key SRTM technology is radar interferometry, which compares two radar images taken at slightly different locations to obtain elevation or surface-change information. SRTM will take two images at the same time -- one from the radar antennas in the shuttle's payload bay, the other from the radar antennas at the end of a 60-meter (200-foot) mast extending from the shuttle. Combining the two images produces a single 3-D image.

The SRTM 3-D pictures -- called visualizations -- of Earth's surface that scientists will use for studies of flooding, erosion, land-slide hazards, earthquakes, ecological zones, weather forecasts, and climate change. The data's military applications include mission planning and rehearsal, modeling, and simulation. Other possible uses include optimizing locations for cellular phone towers and improving topographic maps for backpackers, firefighters, and geologists.

The SRTM STS-99 crew is: Commander Kevin Kregel; Pilot Dom Gorie; and Mission Specialists Janet Kavandi, Ph.D.; Janice Voss, Ph.D.; Mamoru Mohri, Ph.D.; and Gerhard P. J. Thiele.

Kregel was selected as an astronaut in 1992. He has logged more than 41 days in space during three missions: as pilot of STS-70 in 1995 and STS-78 in 1996, and as commander of STS-87 last year.

After being selected as an astronaut in 1994, Gorie served as pilot earlier this year on STS-91, the ninth and final Shuttle-Mir mission of the U.S.-Russian Phase One Program.

Kavandi was selected as an astronaut in 1994 and flew on board Discovery earlier this year with Gorie on STS-91.

With STS-99, Voss will be making her fifth space flight. She has flown previously on STS-57 in 1993, STS-63 in 1995; and STS-83 and STS-94 in 1997.

Mohri, of the Japanese Space Agency, is a member of the 1996 astronaut class. STS-99 will be his second space flight; he flew as a Payload Specialist on STS-47, the Spacelab-J mission, in1992.

Thiele, of the European Space Agency, is a member of the 1996 astronaut class. This will be his first flight.

For additional information on the STS-99 crew, or any astronaut, see the NASA Internet biography home page at URL:

For more information about SRTM and JPL's Earth Imaging Radar Program see:

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

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