The objective of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) was to obtain elevation data on a near-global scale to generate high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth through the use of a specially modified radar system on the space shuttle. This radar system gathered data that produced unrivaled 3-D images of the Earth's surface. The crew worked in two shifts to support round-the-clock operations in order to complete this task. SRTM was an international project spearheaded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with participation of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Deployed on Flight Day 1, the imaging radar was able to capture landscapes that have been sculpted through the millennia. This new imaging system orbited at 233 kilometers (145 miles) above Earth with its two radar antennas mounted in Endeavour's payload bay and extended on a 60-meter-long (200-foot) mast. The radar created images of vast, barren deserts, frozen tundra and deep valleys carved by glaciers, such as those found in Alaska, the Andes and Himalayan mountains. SRTM mapped the vestiges of ancient human settlements such as the eighth century Khmer civilization of Angkor, Cambodia, and the habitats of endangered species like the mountain gorillas of central Africa.
The 11,793-kilogram (13-ton) radar system collected highly accurate, high-resolution images of Earth's crust between 60 degrees north latitude and 56 degrees south latitude. The regions mapped are home to about 95 percent of the world's population and were captured with an accuracy of better than 30 meters (100 feet). When the radar was retracted, more than 222 hours of around-the-clock radar mapping operations had been completed. This extremely large amount of information is enough to fill more than 20,000 CDs.
Also aboard Endeavour was a student experiment called EarthKAM, which took 2,715 digital photos during the mission through an overhead flight-deck window. This NASA-sponsored program lets middle school students select photo targets and receive the images via the Internet. The pictures are used in classroom projects on earth science, geography, mathematics and space science. More than 75 middle schools around the world participated in the experiment, which set a record. On four previous flights combined, EarthKAM sent down a total of 2,018 images.
Two NASA Life Science Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSOs) were also conducted on this busy mission. A DSO is a NASA-sponsored investigation performed by Space Shuttle crewmembers, who serve as the test subjects. These studies required minimal crew time, power and stowage. Biomedical DSOs focus on operational concerns, including space motion sickness, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle loss, changes in coordination and balance strategies, radiation exposure, pharmacokinetics and changes in the body's biochemistry.
Space Shuttle Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 22, 2000, 6:22:23 p.m. EST. The mission duration was 11 days, 5 hours, 39 minutes, and 41 seconds.