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Japanese satellite flops at map-making: official

File image of the ALOS earth observatin platform that has both civil and military applications.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 9, 2008
An advanced Japanese surveying satellite launched two years ago is proving to be a disappointment, producing images too blurry for map-makers, officials said Wednesday.

The 457.8-million-dollar "Daichi" satellite was sent into space to create detailed maps of remote parts of Japan, but the images have not been of sufficient quality, the government's Geographical Survey Institute said.

"For many places, we now expect to conduct land surveys to update the maps," said Takashi Hayashi, an official with the institute.

"We will use the satellite images as reference materials to review major changes, such as new highways, new shopping malls and reclaimed land," he said.

The institute takes aerial pictures of Japan every five years for thorough updates of local maps and had hoped the satellite would complement the work.

But officials have so far used the Daichi satellite's images to update maps of just 52 of 4,300 section images of Japan.

Most areas where satellite images have been used have been remote areas including Iwo-to, better known as Iwo Jima.

"It is not cost effective for us to send airplanes to places as remote as Iwo-to for regular updates," Hayashi said.

Engineers and officials from the map institute and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are discussing ways to improve the Daichi images and how best to use the data, Hayashi said.

"If there is no improvement, use of the Daichi images will be difficult," he said.

Japan has been expanding its space operations and last year launched the world's most extensive probe of the moon in decades, which produced the first high-definition image of the Earth rising.

Japan has set the goal of sending an astronaut to the moon by 2020.

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Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jan 07, 2008
Earlier this year, NASA researcher Dan Irwin stepped off a plane in Guatemala and found, to his surprise, that he was running for mayor. It seems the people of San Andres had put his name on the ballot. Irwin respectfully declined, but he was touched. If you ask him why the residents of rural San Andres are crazy about him, Irwin, a humble soul, shrugs his shoulders and says, "Everyone has a hobby. Mine is building things helping develop their community. I enjoy it."

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