The space shuttle Endeavour's 5 year mission to map planet Earth is over. New Zealand and Australia were the last datasets released this week. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) obtained elevation data on a near-global scale to generate the most (80%) complete high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth. The missing areas were in the extreme north and south, such as Antarctica and Greenland, as the shuttle cannot fly over the poles. SRTM consisted of a specially modified radar system that flew onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in February of 2000.
New Zealand straddles the juncture of the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, two of Earth's major crustal plates. The two plates generally converge in subduction zones, but in a scissor-like pattern, with the Indo-Austalian plate overriding the Pacific plate to the north and the Pacific plate overriding the Indo-Australian plate to the south. New Zealand is "what happens" in between at and near the cross point of this scissor pattern. Here the convergence has built two major islands that together exhibit very active volcanoes and fault systems, and these geologic features are very evident in the topographic pattern.
Click here to view the New Zealand Fly-over! (Quicktime mov format)