Summary of the results from the lunar orbiter laser altimeter after seven years in lunar orbit

David E. Smith, Maria T. Zuber, Gregory A. Neumann, Erwan Mazarico, Frank G. Lemoine, James W. Head, Paul G. Lucey, Oded Aharonson, Mark Robinson, Xiaoli Sun, Mark H. Torrence, Michael K. Barker, Juergen Oberst, Thomas C. Duxbury, Dandan Mao, Olivier S. Barnouin, Kopal Jha, David D. Rowlands, Sander Goossens, David BakerSven Bauer, Philipp Gläser, Myriam Lemelin, Margaret Rosenburg, Michael M. Sori, Jennifer Whitten, Timothy Mcclanahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


In June 2009 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft was launched to the Moon. The payload consists of 7 science instruments selected to characterize sites for future robotic and human missions. Among them, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) was designed to obtain altimetry, surface roughness, and reflectance measurements. The primary phase of lunar exploration lasted one year, following a 3-month commissioning phase. On completion of its exploration objectives, the LRO mission transitioned to a science mission. After 7 years in lunar orbit, the LOLA instrument continues to map the lunar surface. The LOLA dataset is one of the foundational datasets acquired by the various LRO instruments. LOLA provided a high-accuracy global geodetic reference frame to which past, present and future lunar observations can be referenced. It also obtained high-resolution and accurate global topography that were used to determine regions in permanent shadow at the lunar poles. LOLA further contributed to the study of polar volatiles through its unique measurement of surface brightness at zero phase, which revealed anomalies in several polar craters that may indicate the presence of water ice. In this paper, we describe the many LOLA accomplishments to date and its contribution to lunar and planetary science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-91
Number of pages22
StatePublished - Feb 2017


  • Moon
  • orbit determination
  • surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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