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New Heights For Old Landmark

The Washington Monument stands a bit taller today.

A team of government scientists climbed to the top of the giant stone spire Wednesday and used the latest in satellite technology to take its measure: 555 feet, 5.9 inches.

Thats four-tenths of an inch more than had previously been recorded.

The monument was last measured 65 years ago by government surveyors. Scaffolding in place for a renovation of the spire gave researchers the opportunity to reach the top and take new measurements.

The team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Geodetic Survey took several measurements during their visit to the apex and will report final, detailed figures in a week or so, NOAA officials said.

"Engineers will also use this information to monitor the monument's stability, measuring any shifting, settling, or other movement of the structure. The same precise positioning capabilities used in this project are essential for a wide range of survey work, navigation, and the operation of safe, reliable transportation and communications systems," NOAA Administrator D. James Baker said .

The geodesists used state-of-the-art Global Positioning System receivers and other specialized gear to take hundreds of measurements at the top of the monument and at several other nearby Washington landmarks. Geodesy is the science of measuring the Earth.

The last official geodetic measurements from the top of the Washington Monument were made in 1934 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the National Geodetic Survey's predecessor agency. At that time, manual observations were made with instruments such as theodolites, spirit levels and leveling rods.

Seven manufacturers of GPS receivers provided equipment for the new measurements.

Such precise measurements are part of the Geodetic's Survey's National Spatial Reference System, which is the foundation for all types of surveys and allows government, industry and researchers to measure the position of objects in three-dimensional space.

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