Magazine article Science News

Double Great Wall Spied from Space

Magazine article Science News

Double Great Wall Spied from Space

Article excerpt

Despite the claims of an oft-repeated rumor, the Apollo astronauts could not spot the Great Wall of China from the moon, 400,000 kilometers away (SN: 12/24&31/94, p. 432). Crews on the space shuttle, however, orbiting only a few hundred kilometers above Earth, can pick out China's best-known monument when the lighting is right. But a trio of radars on the space shuttle demonstrates the best vision. The radar images show not only the current wall but also a previous edition running parallel to it, report NASA scientists.

The triple-radar instrument, known as SIR-C/X-SAR, operates at three different frequencies, and it flew on the space shuttle twice in 1994. Although archaeology was not an intended part of those missions, images from the radars can reveal hidden structures and help map man-made features.

The SIR-C/X-SAR team is investigating a section of the Great Wall running across the desert about 430 miles west of Beijing. …

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