Space shuttle mission data results in vast improvement over existing model.

Solid Terrain Modeling (STM), manufacturer of the world's most accurate 3-D solid terrain models, has completed a new model for National Geographic's Explorers Hall museum in Washington, D.C. The model of the Virunga Mountains - straddling the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda - will replace one that has been on display for almost a year. New data sets allowed the creation of a more accurate and visually appealing model.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo section includes Goma, a city of 500,000. Last January, a major lava flow ran through Goma, killing more than 100 people and destroying 12,000 homes. The active volcanoes threaten not only Goma, but also Gisenyi in Rwanda, agricultural regions, and the protected areas of the national parks, including the wildlife habitat of the mountain gorilla.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) supplied the enhanced data sets for the 8-foot by 8-foot model. JPL was able to construct a cloud-free view of this tropical area by piecing together a recently acquired Landsat satellite scene with a scene from the Landsat data archive. The elevation data is from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), which was designed to produce the first detailed near-global elevation model. The SRTM data was acquired in February 2000 during a flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, sponsored by NASA and NIMA.