Significant deficiencies in the quality of today's topographic data severely limit scientific applications. Very few available data sets meet the stringent requirements of 10–30 m for global digital topography and 5 m or better vertical accuracy, and existing satellite systems are unlikely to fulfill these requirements. The Joint Topographic Science Working Group, appointed by NASA and the Italian Space Agency, concluded that radar interferometry coupled with a laser altimeter would be the most promising approach for improving data quality. By providing its own illumination at a wavelength Ion g enough to (e.g., λ = 25 cm) to penetrate clouds and rain, the interferometer would provide a global, uniform high-quality topographic data set. One mission under study, TOPSAT, is well positioned to fill this niche and promises to pave the way toward a more standardized and precise topographic database. TOPSAT would be an international mission, designed to make use of recent technology advances in such programs as NASA's New Millennium. It could be ready to launch by the end of this decade.