Leaders in Lidar

  • Released Thursday, January 19th, 2023
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 11:43AM

In this series, we dive into the legacy of Goddard's lead role in developing laser altimetry, which has revolutionized the way we map our planet, the Moon and other planets. Each chapter looks at the successes and failures of these lidar instruments, beginning with the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter in the late 1980s, through the current generation of laser altimeters on ICESat-2 and GEDI. Through dozens of interviews and archival footage, the history, challenges and legacy of lidar are uncovered.

Chapter 1: The Laser Is Better

The scientists and engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center embark on a new technological and scientific journey, building and sending a laser altimeter to Mars with the MOLA-1 Instrument.

Music: "Fragment," "Chasing Lights," "Charming Noise," "Steady Pace," "The Cage," "Taking It All In," "The Archives," "Intriguing Coincidence," "Everyday Stories," Universal Production Music

Complete transcript available.

Video Descriptive Text available.

Note on footage used: 00:03-00:09 provided by pond5.

Chapter 2: Go Back to Mars

After the devastating loss of Mars Observer, the Goddard team mourns and regroups to build a second MOLA instrument for the Mars Global Surveyor mission. But before they send their laser altimeter to Mars, the team seizes an opportunity to test it on the Space Shuttle.

Music: "Unanswered Questions," "Chasing Lights," "Curious Occasion," "Time Ticking Away," "Have You Seen Annie," "Down to the Wire," "Man Versus Clock," "Everyday Stories." Universal Production Music.

Complete transcript available.

Video Descriptive Text available.

Chapter 3: Take the Next Steps

Riding on the success of MOLA, the Goddard team develops new lidar instruments for Earth, the Moon and Mercury. Each new instrument is a major leap forward in technology and scientific ambition and equally fraught with challenges.

Music: "Breakthrough Discovery," "Chasing Lights," "Prism Lights," "Ellipsis," "What Have We Done," "Resistor," "Starlight Andromeda," "Cascadia," "Everyday Stories," Universal Production Music.

Complete transcript available.

Video Descriptive Text available.

Note on footage used: 10:25 clip provided by pond5.

Chapter 4: All the Easy Missions Are Done

The Goddard team recounts the challenging paths that lead to the current lidar missions, the Global Ecosystems Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and ICESat-2, which look to measure changes on our planet.

Music: "Quick Rhythmic Stabs," "Chasing Lights," "Little Magic," "In Broad Daylight," "Hidden between the Pages," "Down Is Not Out," "Curious by Nature," "Correlating Combination," "Everyday Stories," Universal Production Music.

Complete transcript available.

Video Descriptive Text available.



Credits

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


Series

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