NASA, Japan Publicly Release Digital Topographic Map

Proclaiming it as the world's most complete topographic map, NASA and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry make data sets available from the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer mounted on NASA's Terra spacecraft.

Using nearly 1.3 million individual stereo-pair images, NASA and Japan released a new digital topographic map of Earth June 29 that covers more of the planet than ever before. The new global digital elevation model of Earth was created from images from NASA's Terra spacecraft and the Aster (Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) instrument aboard Terra.
NASA and METI (Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) developed the data set that is available online to users everywhere at no cost.
"This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world," Woody Turner, Aster program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "This unique global set of data will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information."
Previously, the most complete topographic set of data publicly available was from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission that mapped 80 percent of Earth's landmass, between 60 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south. The new Aster data expands coverage to 99 percent, from 83 degrees north latitude and 83 degrees south.
"The Aster data fills in many of the voids in the shuttle mission's data, such as in very steep terrains and in some deserts," said Michael Kobrick, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission project scientist at NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). "NASA is working to combine the Aster data with that of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and other sources to produce an even better global topographic map."
According to Mike Abrams, Aster science team leader at the JPL, the new topographic information will be of value throughout the Earth sciences and has many practical applications that will be used for engineering, energy exploration, conserving natural resources, environmental management, public works design, firefighting, recreation, geology and city planning.
The data will be distributed by NASA's Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Science Data Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and by METI's Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center in Tokyo.
Aster is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched on Terra in December 1999.