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Shuttle Radar Surveying Halted Because of Steering Jet Problem

October 06, 1994| From Associated Press

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Six tiny steering jets needed to precisely aim the radar instruments aboard space shuttle Endeavour shut down Wednesday because of a bad sensor and halted practically all observations.

NASA scrambled to put together a computer program to bypass the sensor, a task expected to take less than 24 hours.

For a few hours, the radar continued to survey mountains, oceans and other sites using larger, clumsier jets to tilt the shuttle and radar in the proper direction. These jets used so much fuel, however, that flight controllers decided it wasn't worth it and suspended all but the most important radar observations.

Ground controllers still hoped to survey today's intentional oil spill. German oceanographers planned to dump oil into the North Sea to see whether Endeavour could track the mess with its radar.

Two oil-recovery ships stood by to collect the 106 gallons of spilled diesel oil as soon as Endeavour passes overhead.

Werner Alpers, a University of Hamburg oceanographer in charge of the experiment, wants to see whether Endeavour's powerful radar can distinguish between an oil spill and the film naturally produced by fish and plankton.

Space radar operating in one frequency, or wavelength, cannot tell the difference; Endeavour's radar has three frequencies.

Scientists say permanently orbiting, advanced radar could allow spills to be detected and cleaned up more quickly.

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