NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
NASA's Space Lidar Measurements of Earth and Planetary SurfacesA lidar instrument on a spacecraft was first used to measure planetary surface height and topography on the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon in 1971, The lidar was based around a flashlamp-pumped ruby laser, and the Apollo 15-17 missions used them to make a few thousand measurements of lunar surface height from orbit. With the advent of diode pumped lasers in the late 1980s, the lifetime, efficiency, resolution and mass of lasers and space lidar all improved dramatically. These advances were utilized in NASA space missions to map the shape and surface topography of Mars with > 600 million measurements, demonstrate initial space measurements of the Earth's topography, and measured the detailed shape of asteroid. NASA's ICESat mission in Earth orbit just completed its polar ice measurement mission with almost 2 billion measurements of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, and demonstrated measurements to Antarctica and Greenland with a height resolution of a few em. Space missions presently in cruise phase and in operation include those to Mercury and a topographic mapping mission of the Moon. Orbital lidar also have been used in experiments to demonstrate laser ranging over planetary distances, including laser pulse transmission from Earth to Mars orbit. Based on the demonstrated value of the measurements, lidar is now the preferred measurement approach for many new scientific space missions. Some missions planned by NASA include a planetary mission to measure the shape and dynamics of Europa, and several Earth orbiting missions to continue monitoring ice sheet heights, measure vegetation heights, assess atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and to map the Earth surface topographic heights with 5 m spatial resolution. This presentation will give an overview of history, ongoing work, and plans for using space lidar for measurements of the surfaces of the Earth and planets.
Document ID
Document Type
Abshire, James B. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2010
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.