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Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA)

NSSDCA ID: 2009-031A-04

Mission Name: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
Principal Investigator:Dr. David E. Smith


The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) will be used to produce a high-resolution (1 meter vertical resolution, 50 meter horizontal resolution) global topographic map and geodetic framework that enables precise targeting, safe landing, and surface mobility to carry out exploratory activities. It will also be used to detect surface ice inside permanently shadowed craters near the poles.

LOLA consists of a side-pumped Nd:YAG laser which sends pulses through a diffractive optical element which breaks it into five beams. The beams form a cross pattern on the surface spanning about 50 meters. The range for each beam is determined by measuring the time of flight, the surface roughness is estimated from the pulse preading, and the surface reflectance is determined by the return signal strength. The reflectance will be particularly high if surface ice is present. LOLA will fire 28 shots per second and will make a total of over 4 billion measurements over the course of the mission. The time of flight is measured to 0.6 nanosecond precision which corresponds to 10 cm precision. After orbital uncertainties are included, the topography will be known to 50 meter horizontal accuracy and better than 1 meter vertical accuracy.

Alternate Names

  • LOLA

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Geology and Geophysics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. David E. SmithPrincipal InvestigatorNASA Goddard Space Flight
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