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Bolivian Salt Flats Aid Spacecraft Calibration 98

PCOL writes "Salar de Uyuni is a vast plain of white salt in the mountains of Bolivia, with a total elevation range of less than 80 centimeters - the flattest place on earth. Beginning in 2002, geophysicist Adrian Borsa led a survey that resulted in precise GPS measurements of the salt flat. The flats will be used as a giant calibration device for satellite-based radar and laser altimeters on the CryoSat recovery mission so the spacecraft can more precisely monitor changes in the elevation and thickness of polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. 'Satellites can calibrate their altimeters by bouncing signals off the ocean surface .. because of atmospheric interference, tides and waves, there are uncertainties. Borsa says the salar, now so accurately mapped and with dry, clear skies, is about five times better than the ocean as a reference point.'"

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