The Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched on 11 February 2000 for the “Shuttle Radar Topography Mission” (SRTM). When Endeavour returned eleven days later, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) had obtained high-precision mapping data for more than 113 million square kilometres of the Earth from an altitude of about 230 kilometres, forming the basis for what became known as the “Map of the 21st Century”. The X-band DEMs from the SRTM mission can be now downloaded free of charge by registering with EOWEB.
The radar images provided a representation of Earth’s surface viewed from two different positions, enabling researchers at DLR’s German Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFZ) to derive a precise Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the surface of the Earth. The SRTM was not just a milestone in terms of high-precision mapping of the Earth from space, but also the precursor to and a test for the current TanDEM-X mission, which involves two identical German radar satellites orbiting Earth in formation to record a comprehensive and even more precise DEM that is scheduled for completion in 2013.
More information and SRTM images are available at DLR