LOLA AGU Presentation Support

  • Released Friday, December 17th, 2010
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:53PM
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NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is allowing researchers to create the most precise and complete elevation map to date of the moon's complex, heavily cratered landscape.

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 determine 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. These range measurements, combined with accurate tracking of the spacecraft's location, are used to build a map revealing the contours of the lunar landscape.

This animation illustrates the dramatic improvement in our knowledge of the Moon's terrain made possible by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. A LOLA digital elevation map compiled in late 2009 is compared to the Unified Lunar Control Network (ULCN) 2005, a painstakingly constructed map based on the best available data at the time, including imagery from the Clementine, Apollo, Mariner 10, and Galileo missions as well as Earth-based observations.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


This visualization is related to the following missions: