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Shuttle crew conserves fuel, fixes data glitch

Shuttle Mast
View of the radar mast extending from the shuttle cargo bay  

February 18, 2000
Web posted at: 1:39 PM EST (1839 GMT)

In this story:

'Flycast' boosts shuttle altitude

Alaska-sized area mapped every 15 minutes

Grade school project sets record pace


JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- After scrimping on fuel to compensate for a faulty thruster, then correcting a problem with a machine used to record Earth map data, the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour was on course to complete their mapping mission, NASA said Friday.

There was "a small blip in some of the information" being stored by one of six high-data rate recorders on Thursday, said NASA spokesman Doug Peterson in Houston. "People down here asked the crew to swap out some cable. They did that and it's working fine again."

The Earth in High-Res:
Space shuttle topography images
VideoSpace shuttle Endeavour launches from Kennedy Space Center Friday on a global mapping mission.
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VideoCNN interview with astronauts on board the shuttle Tuesday morning.
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'Flycast' boosts shuttle altitude

A more serious problem, a malfunctioning gas valve, had threatened to cut short the mission by as much as a day.

A leak or clog in a tiny gas valve on the tip of the shuttle's radar antenna mast was forcing astronauts to fire the shuttle's thrusters more often to steady the 197-foot (60-meter) mast.

But some unusual fuel saving measures paid off and mission controllers told the crew Thursday that mapping operations would proceed for nine days as planned.

Adding to their good fortune, mission engineers on Thursday observed that the small nitrogen gas jet on the mast seemed to have begun providing some thrust.

Endeavour performed its sixth "flycast" engine firing Friday morning. The complicated maneuver maintains the shuttle's altitude at around 150 miles (240 kilometers), necessary for the crew's precise mapping data collection.

The daily firing boosted the shuttle higher than normal this time, a deliberate change that should save fuel by eliminating an engine burn scheduled for Sunday, NASA controllers said.

Besides modifying the shuttle's engine burns, other fuel saving measures include flushing waste water instead of vaporizing it and restricting the use of certain equipment.

Alaska-sized area mapped every 15 minutes

SRTM image of Kamchatka, a Russian peninsula comparable in size to Japan  

The Endeavour is to make images of 70 percent of the Earth's land forms at least twice, providing information to produce the most comprehensive and detailed three-dimensional maps of the world.

By Friday morning, more than 24 million square miles (39 million square kilometers) had been mapped with two or more passes, representing more than 50 percent of the target area.

The shuttle's radar system has mapped almost 40 million square miles (64 million square kilometers) at least once. That area is larger than the Americas, Africa and Australia combined.

Endeavour's radar was scanning an area the size of Alaska every 15 minutes.

Grade school project sets record pace

NASA said an experiment on the shuttle inspired by children has set a record pace.

The EarthKAM camera has already beamed back almost 1,400 photos of Earth to middle school students. On four previous shuttle flights combined, EarthKAM sent down some 2,000 photos.

The shuttle is scheduled to land at Cape Canaveral on Tuesday.

Astronauts save enough fuel for full mapping
February 17, 2000
NASA: Shuttle may be able to complete mission
February 16, 2000
Halfway point may be critical for fuel-starved shuttle
February 15, 2000
NASA monitors shuttle fuel consumption after thruster fails
February 14, 2000
Shuttle Endeavour cleared for Friday launch
February 11, 2000

Latest Images from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
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