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The system will analyze satellite imagery to determine an area's suitability for landing operations by looking at length, width, and flatness of the area as well as potential obstructions and standing water.
If, however, the area around the landing mat is free of hard or dangerous obstructions and is in compliance with the "soft landing zone" rules, the helmets would not be necessary.
While the first four flights ended on huge Rogers Dry Lake, the fifth landing was to end on Edwards' concrete runway, and the crew was to aim for a designated spot.
This was also the first landing at Edwards by a returning space station crew.
Those flights included one with a short takeoff, a transition into normal jet flight, then a vertical landing.
when Ross radioed the tower at Van Nuys Airport and told controllers his landing gear was not working, said Stacy Geere, spokeswoman for Van Nuys Airport.
After several failed efforts to shake the stuck gear loose, the pilot landed the plane in a lopsided position, with just the nose wheel and right landing gear down.