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CNN Today

Endeavour Shuttles Into Space on Earth-Mapping Mission

Aired February 11, 2000 - 1:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Lovely day for a shuttle launch. Endeavour lifted off a launch pad just a couple of minutes ago on its mission to make an immensely detailed map of the Earth.

CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien join us now from Kennedy Space Center.

Hi, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Donna.

NASA breathing a sigh of relief. You could only call this launch flawless. It was a perfect day, and the climb into orbit eight minutes and 30 seconds worth, was flawless as well.

Now, 35 minutes into this mission, an 11-day mission, the crew already somewhere over the Middle East as we speak, traveling 17,000 miles an hour, working on precisely refining their orbit, as we speak.

Let's take a look at that launch, which happened 35 minutes ago right now. And it was, as we say, a picture-perfect launch. They only had a few problems. Let's listen in:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL WELLS, NASA PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Booster ignition and liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on a 21st century mission placing Earth back on the map.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The voice of Joel Wells, NASA public affairs commentator. The reason he called it a mission of putting them on the map is this 11-day mission is about creating a three-dimensional topographic map of the world. And to that end, the crew is not going to spend any time having some fun up in orbit at the moment. No high- fives for them. They are going to get right to work deploying a 200- foot mast which will lean over the side of the shuttle's payload bay.

Now, on that mast, at the end of it, is an antenna which beams radar beams down to the earth. There's another antenna on the payload bay. Those two images bounce off the Earth and are received back in the shuttle. The net result is a three-dimensional map, which has never been accomplished before. Some 70 percent of the Earth's surface expected to be mapped in all this. The primary customer for NASA on this, the Pentagon, obviously interested in good maps to guide their plane's and troops, but also scientists, geographers, geologists, hydrologists who want to learn more about how the Earth and the water around it is moving.

That mission, as we say, going to last 11 days. Ten -- nine solid days of mapping is planned, the crew right now doing their best to get that map deployment process underway. That should happen about five hours from now. That'll be the first moment of truth on this mission.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center.

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