Monday, December 20, 2010

NASA LRO: Unprecedented Topographic Map Of Moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is allowing researchers to create the most precise and complete map to date of the moon's complex, heavily cratered landscape.

"This dataset is being used to make digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future scientific and human exploration missions to the moon," said Dr. Gregory Neumann of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"After about one year taking data, we already have nearly 3 billion data points from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter on board the LRO spacecraft, with near-uniform longitudinal coverage.

We expect to continue to make measurements at this rate through the next two years of the science phase of the mission and beyond.

Near the poles, we expect to provide near-GPS-like navigational capability as coverage is denser due to the spacecraft's polar orbit."

Neumann will present the map at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco December 17.
The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) works by propagating a single laser pulse through a Diffractive
Optical Element that splits it into five beams.

These beams then strike and are backscattered from the lunar surface. From the return pulse, the LOLA electronics determines the time of flight which, accounting for the speed of light, provides a precise measurement of the range from the spacecraft to the lunar surface.

NASA's LRO Creating Unprecedented Topographic Map Of Moon

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