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Single laser pulse will help scientist develop topographic map.

The mysterious polar craters of the moon, often hidden in shadow,  will soon be shown in a new light.  NASA scientists are currently working to offer up illuminating details of their topography for the first time with the most precise and complete map to date, thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). 

According to NASA's web page, LOLA, which is on board the LRO spacecraft, works by propagating a single laser pulse through a Diffractive Optical Element that splits it into five beams. The beams 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.

"Recent papers have clarified some aspects of lunar processes based solely on the more precise topography provided by the new LOLA maps such as lunar crater density and resurfacing by impacts, or the formation of multi-ring basins," said Dr. Gregory Neumann of NASA's Maryland Goddard Space Flight Center."

The new maps are more accurate and sample more places on the moon.

"The LOLA data also allow us to define the current and historical illumination environment on the moon," said Neumann. 

Vital to finding places that have been shaded for long periods of time, lunar illumination history will help scientists with discovering areas that act like cold storage and are capable of accumulating and preserving volatile material like water ice.  They are generally in deep craters near the lunar poles.

"Until LRO and the recent Japanese Kaguya mission, we had no idea of what the extremes of polar crater slopes were," said Neumann.

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RE: But...
By cenobite9 on 12/20/2010 4:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
and how long before Google buys the imagery to add to their Google Earth/Moon/Mars?

RE: But...
By CharonPDX on 12/20/2010 4:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, if the imagery is generated by a NASA (aka government)-funded mission, created by government employees, then it's public domain already. Google just needs to ask for it.

They already have an elevation view, and 3D terrain in Google Earth, so this would just be a refinement of that.

RE: But...
By DougF on 12/20/2010 5:29:44 PM , Rating: 3
Google can get the data...eventually. NASA often holds such data for a specified time to allow the research institutions working with this program to have "first shot" at creating papers, announcing discoveries, etc. It depends on the agreement with the particular institution as to how long NASA holds the basic data. Even then, the data may be in a unique format and require translation to be usable in the public domain.

RE: But...
By fic2 on 12/20/2010 5:51:01 PM , Rating: 2
I'm hoping my Garmin lifetime maps includes moon maps.

RE: But...
By fteoath64 on 12/21/2010 8:14:00 AM , Rating: 3
What for ?. You aint got a saucer that can fly there. And neither would he greys take you there on their ships. If they did in the past, your memory was wiped so you ain't any wiser.

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