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Geologic Utility of Shuttle Handheld Photography

W. R. Muehlberger

Each mission of the Space Shuttle returns more than 1,500 frames of handheld photographs of the Earth. The photographs are taken to document geologic, oceanographic, meteorologic, and environmental phenomena. Because of varying launch times and lengths of missions, these photographs can be taken over a wide range of sun angles and look directions. Further, the photos are in true color and, for selected areas, in stereosets.

Because most missions orbit between 28.5°N and S, the bulk of available photographs are of areas between these latitudes. A few missions have orbited between 57°N and S. Soon there will be polar orbital missions. Nadir photographs have a resolution of about 90 m when a 100-mm lens is used, and about 30-m resolution when a 250-mm lens is used.

High sun angles give the best color rendition; low sun angles produce shadow effects that emphasize structure shown in the topography. Different look directions allow the viewer to emphasize linear trends or changes in trend. These photographs are available from the same sources as other government-acquired earth-looking coverage.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.